Back to school for Ukrainian children at Digital Learning Centers
Children in the frontline city of Zaporizhzhia are logging onto school lessons online at a new Digital Learning Center, created by UNICEF and partners
9-year-old Dmytro is excited about the start of a maths lesson at a Digital Learning Center that has opened in Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine. The centre, run by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), provides him, 20 classmates and their teacher with the chance to connect online after nearly a year and a half out of school.
"I was excited to go to school,” says the boy. “My friends are here. Maybe not all of them, because not all of them have returned to the city, but I'm glad to see them anyway. I also missed my teachers. My favourite subjects now are maths and English.”
Today, most of the children are sitting at desks for the first time since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine. The centre provides them with everything they need for online learning, including laptops, headphones and internet access.
UNICEF helped to equip this space with the financial support of the Japanese government and partner NGO Posmishka (‘smile’ in Ukrainian).
"Due to the face-to-face format of education last year, not all the learning methods and practices could be implemented,” says primary school teacher Olena Lavrova. “It caused learning losses, which I hope we will be able to catch up.”
Svitlana, a mother to several children, is pleased to bring her fourth-grader daughter Kateryna to classes at the centre.
"Last year was a real challenge for our family,” she says. “We have four children and it is difficult to organize online learning for all of them. And we should remember that children need socialization and communication with their peers.”
When today’s lesson is interrupted by an air alert, the children and their teachers file down to the shelter that UNICEF has set up with the support of the European Union. It contains all the necessary equipment and supplies for lessons to continue. There, facilitators also help the children to do various useful exercises to improve their psycho-emotional state, such as making paper fireworks, drawing and writing letters to their future selves.
To ensure continuing education for every child during the war, UNICEF is establishing Digital Learning Centers in eastern and southern Ukraine. In these regions, face-to-face education is limited due to the security situation and school infrastructure is often damaged. Access to distance education is also difficult due to power outages, lack of internet and lack of devices.
Since February 2022, UNICEF has supported access to formal and non-formal education, including preschool education, for nearly 1.5 million of the most vulnerable children in Ukraine.