There were 15 primary schools and 5 secondary schools in Pripyat. Toys and exercise books still remain strewn across the floor as a stark reminder of children that once attended.
This report is part of a series from the ghost town of Pripyat and the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Check out the Chernobyl and Pripyat main page for more reports.
One of the hardest-hitting sights during a visit to Pripyat is the schools and kindergartens, strewn with toys, exercise books, and all the usual paraphernalia associated with education facilities.
It wasn’t the sight of the objects however, they are exactly what you’d expect to find. It was the images they conjure up in ones mind that struck me. Thousands of children potentially exposed to deadly radiation before being permanently evacuated must have a detrimental affect on them, psychologically if not physically.
There were 15 primary schools in Pripyat, catering for 5,000 children, plus 5 secondary schools and a professional school. We didn’t have time to visit them all, but we saw a good selection. Each in a differing state of decay; one had suffered a partial collapse while others seemed structurally sound.
Middle School 3 is one of the highlights of almost anyone’s visit to the ghost town. An image now iconic of Pripyat resides inside – a sea of gas masks covers the floor, each and every one of them child-sized. The chilling sight is a relic of the Cold War era, when there was a threat of chemical, biological or nuclear attack. The school kept the gas masks in storage in case of such an attack. Looters have since worked their way through, removing the small amount of silver contained within each filter and leaving the masks strewn across the floor.
Rooms jam-packed packed full of tiny beds in the nurseries serve as a reminder of just how many children there were. Pripyat was a booming city, with a much higher than average birth rate. It makes you wonder how those kids came through the experience and what they are doing now. Ironically, I suspect many of them now work at the power plant as part of the decommissioning process.