War has hampered education for 5.3 Million children in Ukraine, warns UNICEF
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KYIV, 24 January 2023 – On International Day of Education, UNICEF warns that the war has put at risk education and the future of children in Ukraine. Some 5.3 million children face barriers preventing access to education, including 3.6 million children directly affected by school closures. This places children in Ukraine at risk of losing critical years of schooling and social development. Since February 2022, UNICEF has supported nearly 1.5 million of the most vulnerable children in Ukraine to access formal and non-formal education, including early learning.
Since war began, over 2,600 schools have been damaged and over 400 destroyed across Ukraine, according to the Ministry of Education. Only approximately 25 per cent of Ukrainian schools nationwide have been able to offer full-time, in-person learning since September. In addition, UNICEF surveys show that fewer than a half of families with children under five-years-old were able to return to kindergarten and join educational activities. Damage to schools and power cuts following attacks on critical infrastructure have also hindered children’s ability to access education in-person and online, putting the future for millions of children at risk.
“Every child must have access to quality and safe education, even amidst the war. Education is critical to children’s well-being and social development. It cannot be put on hold without risking the future of an entire generation. Lives of millions will be infinitely harder if we fail to help them continue their education now,” emphasized UNICEF Ukraine Representative Murat Sahin.
Beyond education, schools also play a critical role in the social development of children, which is critical for managing the psychosocial stressors and traumas that war brings. It provides a peer group where children can talk through problems, access to adults outside of the family environment to help with the processing of emotions, and a place from where referrals to mental health professionals can be given, when needed. Schools play a critical role in managing the mental health of children, and mental health issues in children should be managed at the earliest opportunity to prevent them from becoming life-long problems. The lack of formal learning spaces in Ukraine due to war hampers these opportunities.
To ensure learning continuity for every child during the war in Ukraine, UNICEF has been engaged since the war began. UNICEF has, for example, rehabilitated bomb shelters in kindergartens and schools, provided laptops, tablets, and supplies to teachers and students to allow displaced children and teachers to continue studying and teaching. It has also developed tools for teachers to provide mental health and psychosocial support, increased access of children and youth to skills development, and provided material guiding children and teachers on how best to stay safe during war.
UNICEF has been working with the Government and partners to find non-standard ways to give children opportunities to study, engage and interact. Today, over 150 Spilno Child Spots across the country provide informal learning opportunities for children of different ages.
“Education provides children with much more than just knowledge. It is a lifeline for them. Schools give children a sense of normalcy and hope. The sooner children will be able to return to a school environment, to have their normal routine, to learn and interact with classmates and teachers, the faster they can recover – particularly the most vulnerable children. In addition, education can be an entry point for delivering other critical services, including psychosocial support,” said Murat Shahin.
Note to editors
- Since the beginning of the war, UNICEF provided support to nearly 1.5 million children to access formal and non-formal education, including early learning.
- In 2022, almost 300,000 children received psychosocial support and participated in social and emotional learning nationwide.
- During 11 months of war, approximately 770,000 children across Ukraine received early childhood development kits, recreation and school-in-a-box kits, and other items to ensure learning and quality leisure options.
- In 2022, UNICEF disbursed $3 million in cash assistance to over 1,000 schools across Ukraine, allowing schools to address their own specific needs in terms of minor repairs, winterization and procurement of teaching and learning materials.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as the International Day of Education in celebration of the role of learning for peace and development. This is a reminder of our collective duty to help every child access the quality education that is their right, offering them a path to a promising future.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 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 www.unicef.org.