At the start of another uncertain school year, widespread learning loss can be seen among Ukraine’s children
Eighteen months of war preceded by the COVID-19 pandemic have left children across Ukraine struggling to learn as they face a fourth year of disruption to their education.
Only a third of schoolchildren in Ukraine are fully learning in-person. Two thirds are struggling to learn online or through a mixture of online and in person classes. Three quarters of preschool age children in frontline areas are not attending early education.
More than half of children from preschool to secondary school age not enrolled in national education systems in countries hosting refugees.
Teachers across Ukraine have reported a deterioration in children’s results of core subjects.
UNICEF is working with governments and partners on the ground in Ukraine and countries hosting refugee children and families to help increase access to quality learning. This includes supporting the inclusion of children in national education systems and providing multiple learning pathways for children not currently enrolled. This also means equipping teachers and school staff with the skills needed to integrate all vulnerable children in classrooms, providing language classes and mental health and psychosocial support.
Attacks on schools have been sustained since the escalation of war
Horenka, a small village in the Kyiv region, became part of the front line in February 2022 and was heavily damaged by shelling. Today, the shattered building is a reminder of some of the most violent weeks of the war, when children had to separate from their families, grab the essentials and flee to safer places.
12-year-old Masha, 13-year-old Nelya, 11-year-old Liliya 10-year-old Anya, 16-year-old Yana, and Lyuda connect in front of their former primary school premises, now completely destroyed by hostilities.
When Lyuda saw the school for the first time she began to cry, recalling the things that were left there… Her teddy bear, her shoes, her jacket.
Only one school building remains standing in Horenka. However, due to the war and school closure, the girls had to switch to distance learning. Now, one of their biggest dreams is to walk into their classroom and sit down to a lesson: “We missed our teachers, our classmates, our school.”
12-year-old Masha stands amidst the rubble of the Horenka school. Her mother was a teacher at the primary school, which was completely destroyed in hostilities.
Because of the war 10-year-old Anya has lost her home and her school.
“We left in a panic, it was very scary, but we had to,” says Anya. “If we had stayed home longer, we would have been dead.” A shell ripped through the house just a few days after she and her family left. “The war destroyed my house, which we had just built,” she says, sadly.
As she now has nowhere to study and no longer feels safe in Horenka, Anya would like to move abroad.
Across the country thousands of educational institutions have been destroyed or damaged. The destruction of schools has forced children to move to new institutions, continue their education online or flee to other countries in search of safety.
Gathered together, 5-year-old Kolya, 7-year-old Rostyslav, Zakhar, 8-year-old Kyrylo and 11-year-old Andriy stand in a destroyed classroom of the Kyiv region’s Mostysche elementary school, which was severely damaged from shelling and hostilities.
5-year-old Kolya stands in a destroyed classroom of the Mostysche elementary school, which was severely damaged from shelling and hostilities.
The full-scale war has destroyed or damaged hundreds of educational institutions across the country.
Thousands of schools remain inaccessible to children and while online learning can provide a temporary solution, it doesn’t support social development and often yields poor academic outcomes.
Getting back to learning is crucial for children in Ukraine. Students should be able to choose and access a safe and secure way to continue their education with the opportunity to interact with their peers. As recovery efforts continue, it is critical that schools are rehabilitated or rebuilt as accessible, inclusive, safe spaces for children.
The continuing need for humanitarian assistance
Countries across the region are responding to the crisis.
UNICEF has supported the reconstruction of kindergartens, including the installation of bomb shelters – a requirement for school openings. In Oleksandriya, UNICEF has created a bomb shelter for students to use during the school day in the event the sirens go off. Thanks to much needed funding, the kindergarten has hygiene kits, early childhood development kits and furniture for their bomb shelter. Sadly, due to constant air raid sirens, the children visit the shelter almost every day. During these air raids, a speech therapist and music teacher join the teaching staff to work with the 337 children who attend the facility.
UNICEF works with governments and partners in host countries to support children’s education. In Romania, Lisa, a Ukrainian refugee child, is continuing her education. Lisa's determination to learn remains unwavering joining online classes using limited resources. With a laptop and school supplies provided by UNICEF, Lisa is now ready to start school again, continuing her journey to a promising future.
A UNICEF-supported centre in Bulgaria provides learning opportunities and a safe space for children to study. This school year, Anya is one of 180 Ukrainian refugee children, ages 6 to 17, who attends the Ukrainian Education Hub in Sofia. Created to respond to the learning needs of Ukrainian refugee children, the centre fosters academic growth and offers a safe space for children who have fled war in Ukraine.
Oksana arrived in Poland in the summer of 2022 with her two sons, Oleksiy, 10, and Pavlo, 11, from Uman in central Ukraine. For Oksana it was particularly important to get guidance on how to verify the disability status of her sons in Poland and how to access specialist care and education, all of which she was able to get at a Blue Dots hub at the Krakow train station, Platform 4. Finding a school and establishing a routine for children can bring a sense of normalcy again, giving them a chance to socialize, develop and learn.
The Blue Dots Support Hubs established jointly with UNICEF, UNHCR and partners to provide up-to-date and accurate information about accommodation, travel and services. 36 Blue Dots Hubs are active throughout the region.
As hostilities continue unabated, UNICEF works to meet the humanitarian needs inside Ukraine, support the country’s recovery and strengthen national systems to meet the needs of refugees and other vulnerable children in refugee-hosting countries.