Leaders in education reaffirm commitment to increasing access to quality education for Ukraine’s refugee children

15 February 2024
Regional Director Regina De Dominicis.
UNICEF

PRAGUE, 15 February 2024 - International experts in education and representatives from EU Member States, Ukraine and international organisations today reaffirmed their commitment to increasing access to quality education for Ukraine refugee children.

The Regional Conference on Inclusive and Continuous Learning for All Children - Inclusion of Ukrainian Refugee Children in Education in Europe was organized by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and UNICEF, under the auspices of the Government’s Human Rights Commissioner today in Prague.

Since the escalation of war in Ukraine nearly two years ago, more than 830,000 school-age children forced to flee Ukraine have been enrolled in national education systems across the EU.

During the two-day conference, leaders in education identified the challenges faced by countries across the region, noting that education systems have been overstretched and under resourced to cope with the number of school-age children.

Shortages of classrooms, materials and teachers, language barriers, financial constraints and, in some cases, a lack of understanding of how to integrate refugee children into schools have also been among the main challenges in ensuring an inclusive education system.

"It will be two years since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, when over 4 million people fled to the EU in need of care and solidarity. The Czech Republic provided these people not only with accommodation, but also immediate access to education. The Ministry of Education, in cooperation with UNICEF, conducted a large-scale capacity development of teachers and teaching assistants, both Czech and Ukrainian, across the country through various training programmes on inclusive education, safe schools and other supports. We also set up a website and Helpline to support Ukrainian children’s enrollment in schools. We enabled schools increase their capacity, provided Czech language lessons, hired Ukrainian teaching assistants, and eased application for secondary schools through legislation and allocated funds. Approximately 50 000 children were included in our schools without dropping out of the education system. I would like to thank schools, teachers and all those who contributed to ensuring a promising future for these children," said Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Mikuláš Bek.

“In times of crisis, education is a pillar of hope for children, enabling them to learn, make friends, receive support from teachers and peers and restore a sense of routine in their lives.”

“In times of crisis, education is a pillar of hope for children, enabling them to learn, make friends, receive support from teachers and peers and restore a sense of routine in their lives,” said Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Regional Office. “The collaboration and commitment shown today is a catalyst to redouble our efforts to ensure every child across the region has access to quality, inclusive education.”

“I would like to strongly emphasize the importance of opening the educational system of hosting countries to all refugee children. These children are vulnerable due to the extremely endangering situations they have experienced. School and free time activities should become a safe place for children to enjoy their childhood, relax, and have time for themselves, to get psychosocial support, to learn not only the curricula, but also about culture and opportunities while living somewhere else. For Czech children, it is a great opportunity to broaden their cultural and social horizons” said Government Human Rights Commissioner Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková.

Preparatory language classes and adaptation groups, non-formal education especially for preschool children, trainings of teachers and national and Ukrainian teaching assistants, mental health and psychosocial support, non-formal education and social cohesion activities with the host community have been some of the most successful ways to support inclusion of refugee children from Ukraine, according to education experts.

The conference also highlighted an importance of investment in education of refugee children as a critical contribution for Ukraine’s recovery.

Media contacts

Veronika Janouchova
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Refugee Response in the Czech Republic

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/eca/.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook