As children return to school in Poland, UNICEF highlights importance of getting those who’ve fled war in Ukraine back to learning
WARSAW, Poland, 1 September 2022 – On a back to school day which saw hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children join Polish classrooms, UNICEF stressed the importance of getting them back to learning and what is needed to make this happen.
UNICEF is supporting Poland to enrol the huge numbers of new students into the education system, from the hiring of teachers to providing Polish language learning, from mental health support to extending classroom capacity and sourcing more textbooks and learning materials.
“The chance to learn in a safe space together with friends and teachers doesn’t just deliver education, it also brings a crucial sense of stability, normalcy and hope to war-affected children,” said Rashed Mustafa, Country Coordinator for UNICEF’s Emergency Response Office in Poland. Speaking in Wrocław at the reopening of UNICEF-supported Szkoła Podstawowa nr.83 im. Jana Kasprowicza, where one quarter of the pupils are children from Ukraine, he added: “Making sure children who’ve fled war can keep learning can mean the difference between hope and despair.”
“We value our partnership with UNICEF and our shared commitment to investing in education,” said Jakub Mazur, Deputy Mayor of Wrocław Municipality. “From the first days of the conflict we have created an open municipality and thanks to UNICEF and our investment in education we are able to support Ukrainian refugee children and help them to grow and enjoy their childhood.”
The forced displacement caused by the war in Ukraine, at a scale and speed not witnessed since World War II, has seen Poland welcome the majority of refugees who’ve left their country in search of protection. Around 460,000 school-aged children have registered for temporary protection in Poland, although it’s likely that the actual number of refugees is much higher. 182,000 Ukrainian refugee children were enrolled in the Polish education system during the previous academic year but the number for the 2022/2023 academic year, which will be released in the coming weeks, is likely to be significantly higher.
In Poland, UNICEF is expanding learning opportunities for up to 500,000 children. Working in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science, the 12 municipalities which host the largest number of Ukrainian refugees, UNICEF is:
- Supporting teacher training on learning Polish as a second language, remedial and catch-up learning and providing mental health and psychosocial support.
- Helping with the recruitment of Ukrainian teachers, intercultural assistants and translators who will facilitate students’ transition to a new school system.
- Distributing IT equipment to schools in order to speed up language learning and bridge learning gaps, as well as providing learning kits, classroom furniture and sporting equipment.
- Set up an Education Hotline, run in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Polish Center for International Aid (PCPM), to give information and assistance to Ukrainian parents and young people, answering questions on early years childcare, primary, secondary and university education opportunities.
Additionally, over the summer months, UNICEF has supported NGOs in Poland to run summer camps to help refugees improve at the Polish language and meet new Polish friends ahead of the new school year. Around 100,000 children have benefitted from these summer camp activities, with 150,000 targeted by the end of October.
The successful enrolment of large numbers of children into the education system is not only a huge undertaking, it’s also vitally important for Polish children. If it negatively impacts the quality of education overall it could lead to frustration among Polish students and parents and undermine social cohesion.
“The Polish people and central and local government have shown tremendous solidarity and support to those who’ve escaped a brutal war and crossed the border into their country,” said Mustafa. “But they will require sustained and significant support to continue delivering on the rights of children. UNICEF stands ready to continue our strong partnerships with governments and Polish society – like the very important work being done here in Wrocław.”
UNICEF is also supporting refugee children in Poland who choose to continue studying the Ukrainian curriculum online. UNICEF has partnered with local government and NGOs to set up Education and Development Hubs across Poland, where students can attend online classes, receive help with their homework, interact with peers, join Polish language classes and get mental health and psychosocial support.
UNICEF is also giving Ukrainian adolescents guidance and the tools to express their opinions through the youth engagement digital platform U-Report. The U-Report Europe chatbot answers questions on access to education, as well as health services and other opportunities available to them. Last week, a Back to School poll on U-Report Europe was launched to understand the education plans of Ukrainians for the 2022-2023 school year and assess the key needs and barriers. The poll found that 45 per cent planned to study in the national education system in Poland and that the biggest barrier to enrolling in local schools, highlighted by 25 per cent of those surveyed, was not being able to speak Polish.
Our work to support continued learning for children and adolescents who have fled the war in Ukraine to Poland has been made possible thanks to the generous support from our long-term public sector partners, including the Government of Austria, Government of Spain, Government of the Republic of Korea, the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the U.S. Department of State and the Government of Japan, as well as unprecedented support from the private sector companies and individuals, including the people of Denmark and the people of the United States of America through UNICEF National Committees in those countries, as well as other donations received from around the world.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/eca/.