Disrupted normality, undisrupted learning
Ukrainian children with disabilities continue their learning with UNICEF’s support in Romania
- Available in:
IASI, ROMANIA. For the last two months Lilia, 7, is attending classes for Ukrainian children in one of the UNICEF-supported centers in Iasi, Romania. These classes are based on a Ukrainian curriculum and are adapted for Lilia, who has a developmental delay and experiences difficulties with learning.
“Every morning Lilia asks me ‘Am I going to the classes?’. If I answer ‘Yes’, she replies ‘Wow! So, we have to wake up early!’”- smiles Eugenia, Lilia’s mother as she speaks about their daily routine in Iasi.
Eugenia and her three daughters Lilia (7), Anastasia (10) and Polina (3), arrived in Romania in April 2022. Just like hundreds of thousands of other Ukrainian parents, Eugenia was looking for a safe place for her children. It was even more critical for Eugenia than for any other parent, since Lilia and Anastasia, who both are having developmental delays, required urgent support as the stress and fear were overwhelming for the girls.
“They are aware that they are not home. But sometimes, when they hear the vacuum cleaning, they get scared as the sound reminds them of air raids back in Ukraine.”- says Eugenia.
Learning helps Ukrainian children with disabilities get a sense of normality
After arrival to Romania, Eugenia introduced Lilia to online classes organized by a school in Ukraine, but Lilia’s attention span was very short, and it was hard for her to stay concentrated. When Eugenia learned about the classes organized with a Ukrainian teacher with the support of UNICEF in Iasi, she decided to give it a try.
Now, every morning, Eugenia accompanies Lilia to the classes run in the ‘Stars of Hope’ premises - a local non-governmental organization which for the past thirty years has been providing support to children with disabilities in Romania.
With the help of the teacher, Lilia started learning the alphabet, numbers, the basics of math and taking part in creative activities like playing with sand, drawing and dancing. These classes have helped Lilia cope with stress and gain back her usual routine.
“Lilia loves her teacher and feels very comfortable during the classes. Lilia is very lucky to attend them. Being safe, I don’t see why she shouldn’t study.”-shares Eugenia.
Teacher without borders
Galina Vlasenko from Kiev is a very experienced teacher and back in Ukraine she was teaching children English and French language classes. She also fled Ukraine and came to Romania with her family. She first started volunteering as a teacher for a small group of Ukrainian children and later with the support of UNICEF was offered an opportunity to teach Ukrainian children aged 7-8 years old. If still in Ukraine, these children would become 1st graders.
Prior to meeting Lilia, Galina already had experience working with children with disabilities. To develop a curriculum suitable for all children, including Lilia, Galina contacted her colleagues back in Ukraine and consulted with them on how to ensure Lilia is getting most out of all lessons.
"Sometimes other children are questing why Lilia skips some tasks, but I explain her disability to them and ask them to be more tolerant and accepting. They all want my attention and I do my best to make every child enjoy the class." - says Galina.
Galina says that many Ukrainian children, who fled the country, are currently studying online. However, electricity shortages and constant emergency alarms, make teachers in Ukraine cancel the lessons and hide in the basements. So, face-to-face classes like the one Galina runs are in high demand for many Ukrainian children in Romania.
“Sometimes children like Lilia don’t receive attention and some systems close their doors to children like her. But I believe Lilia needs to know that she is just like every other child, she can achieve anything and can become whomever she dreams to become.”