Using innovation in Romania to get Ukrainian children learning again
UNICEF in Romania continues to work with the Government and partners to help get Ukrainian children in the country back to learning.
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Early into the war in Ukraine, Romania started to receive refugees. To date, over 1.6 million Ukrainians have arrived in Romania, with approximately 86,178 remaining in the country. It is estimated that 28 per cent of Ukrainian refugees in Romania are children.
Ivan, 5, fled Mariupol with his parents and arrived in Romania in March. He now lives with his family in Bucharest and is attending kindergarten with other Ukrainian children who escaped the conflict.
“Our apartment at home is destroyed,” said Ivan’s father. “We don’t have a home anymore in Mariupol. My child’s kindergarten was also destroyed. We don’t want to go back. We intend to stay for longer in Romania. We don’t know when the things will be fine home.”
Ivan’s father said he wants to encourage his son to learn Romanian, to adapt easier in his new life. When the school term begins, Ivan will be back in class in Bucharest and attending classes in first grade at Mihai Viteazu School.
„I am very happy because I am in the 1st grade now, and also I am happy to meet my friends”, said Ivan, being excited for starting a new school year.
UNICEF is part of the response task force led by the Romanian Government coordinating the National refugee response. UNICEF’s focus is three-fold:
- Care and protect vulnerable children and families
- Ensure children, adolescents and women have equal access to lifesaving health services
- Support education for all school-aged children by supporting their integration into the national system or alternative learning opportunities.
According to a recent UNICEF Assessment of the needs of Ukrainian refugee families and children living in Romania, 57 per cent of accompanied and 85 per cent of unaccompanied Ukrainian children have started to learn Romanian language. The data is confirmed by the recent survey conducted by Save the Children in Romania.
On level of knowledge of the Romanian language by Ukrainian children, the survey revealed that almost three quarters of Ukrainian children (71 per cent) do not know the Romanian language at all whilst 28 per cent have started to learn the Romanian language. However, they have not reached a level that would allow them to continue their education in Romanian and only one in 100 Ukrainian children learned Romanian language well or knew it before arriving in Romania.
Almost half of respondents in the UNICEF survey declared that their children continued to attend online education provided by the Government of Ukraine, underscoring the support for this initiative as the new school term begins.
The UNICEF assessment of the needs parents and guardians also indicated the language barrier as one of the main obstacles that make it difficult to integrate Ukrainian children into the Romanian education system. The Save the Children survey confirmed 90 per cent of parents and legal guardians raised the language barrier as an issue.
This barrier is one of the biggest challenges to Ukrainian children to enroll in the Romanian education system. Proficiency in the Romanian language is needed to follow the curriculum which requires time and resources.
Other barriers include the uncertainty over the length of stay in Romania, with 25 per cent of respondents in the survey stating that they would not be staying long. Additionally, teaching staff largely lack the experience needed to work with non-native speaking children, and the differences between the Ukrainian and Romanian education curriculum is also an issue. To address this problem, UNICEF is working with partners on a blended learning approach that allows children to learn through several modalities depending on their situation and location.
UNICEF in Action
To support learning for all pre-school and school-aged children fleeing from Ukraine UNICEF:
- Has established safe play and learning spaces.
- Provides education kits/supplies (including relevant and cost-effective teaching materials, learning support materials, IT equipment etc.) in formal and non-formal settings (Blue Dots, transit centres, schools, support hubs, etc.).
- Supports integration of the refugee children into the national education system or alternative learning opportunities.
UNICEF is also supporting the Ministry of Education and local authorities to revise the normative framework, to monitor participation to education and to implement the education action plan through accelerated Romanian language acquisition programmes/classes and scale up learning services in Ukrainian language online and offline.
"The Government of Romania has rapidly modified some of the laws and policies after the crisis to make access to school easier to refugee children,” said Jean Benoit Manhes, the Senior Refugee Response Coordinator for UNICEF in Romania. “However, to support this and add value, UNICEF continues to link with partners and children themselves to ensure that these policies become real and that the needs and situations of each child are taken into consideration.”
UNICEF in Romania continues to work with the Government and partners to help get Ukrainian children in the country back to learning, in classrooms and through online or community-based alternatives where in-person is not possible.
“It is very encouraging for us to see that despite multiple barriers, including language and a complex change of curricula, all partners remain mobilized to ensure quality, child-responsive solutions fitting the special needs of refugees,” said Jean Benoit Much. “But more efforts are needed to ensure better learning outcomes for children learning both on and offline.”