Ukraine’s education system faces longstanding challenges. These include low quality of learning and inadequate skills, a high level of spending on education that does not necessarily guarantee quality and deteriorating public trust in education. In this context, the country is implementing a major education reform programme: The New Ukrainian School.
Ukraine has serious geographical inequities in access to education. Between 2008 and 2013, 1,600 schools closed, including 1,300 rural schools. Demographic change has reduced pupil numbers by 9 per cent (thereby improving the student-to-teacher ratio), but education quality remains problematic. Meanwhile, 66 per cent of rural settlements with children under six lack pre-school services.
Many children with disabilities appear marginalized or left out of mainstream education. The number of children registered with disabilities across Ukraine (153,547) is increasing despite the falling child population. Despite steps towards inclusion, Ukraine is still far from creating a barrier-free and inclusive environment, especially at pre-schools and in rural communities. In 2018, the Government launched national education sector reform to promote inclusive education and a new child-centred model of education.
On top of the ongoing challenges to education in Ukraine, the conflict has further damaged the education system and infrastructure. In total, 737,000 schoolchildren and teachers in more than 3,500 education facilities face sustained personal, social and economic effects of the conflict, while 437,000 children and teachers learn and teach within 20 kilometres of the ‘contact line. Conflict-affected children face multiple supply- and demand-side barriers to schooling and quality learning, including lack of learning space and learning materials, and insufficient qualified teachers with the skills to meet pupils’ psychological needs. Many of the children are particularly vulnerable, including children with disabilities.
Meanwhile, 58 education facilities were damaged in 2016-2018 and 65 have closed in conflict-affected areas. Of 920 schools in government-controlled conflict-affected areas, 84 per cent require rehabilitation, such as repairs of windows, water systems and toilets. Many schools struggle to cope with winter cold due to antiquated or non-functioning heating systems or insufficient resources for fuel. One in three schools within 20 kilometres of the ‘contact line’ reported conflict-related safety concerns, including military presence nearby and unexploded ordnance. This leads to trauma and emotional distress.
UNICEF is particularly committed to linking humanitarian, recovery and development approaches and activities, to ensure acute needs are met, whilst fostering the resilience of affected communities, and self-recovery of displaced families.