After fleeing abroad, children return to school in Kyiv
Vlada and her family spent a year living in the Czech Republic due to the ongoing violence in Ukraine. She has just returned home and is preparing for a new school year.
Twelve-year-old Vlada is getting nervous as a new school year approaches. Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, she has already changed schools four times since first grade.
"Here, I have new classmates, everything is new," she says.
Last February, as the war escalated, Vlada and her mother fled to the Czech Republic. They had hoped to stay just a few weeks but the fighting intensified so Vlada studied remotely, eventually graduating from fourth grade.
As the war continued at home, Vlada poured her efforts into education. In September 2022, she enrolled at a local school, while also continuing to study online. Her day would start at 6.30 in the morning and last until evening, after which she would do her homework.
"First, I would have six face-to-face lessons at school and then attend four more online,” says Vlada. “My lessons finished at seven in the evening. For sure, I had no time to go for a walk, or even to have a normal meal. That was awful.”
In the beginning, she found it difficult to communicate with her new classmates in the Czech Republic, due to the language barrier. But in just a few months, Vlada had mastered the language, made friends and was excelling at school.
When, in April of 2023, Vlada's family decided to return to Kyiv, her worries resurfaced.
"In Kyiv, I don't feel safe,” she says. “When an air alert occurs at night, we have to go to the corridor or a shelter and it's very exhausting.”
Around 5.3 million children in Ukraine face barriers to education, including approximately 4 million directly affected by school closures.
More than half of Ukraine’s refugee children are not enrolled in national education systems of their host countries. As a result, millions of children are at risk of losing critical years of learning and social development.
UNICEF is working with governments and partners on the ground in Ukraine and countries hosting refugee children and families to help increase access to quality learning. This includes supporting the inclusion of children in national education systems and providing multiple learning pathways for children not currently enrolled. This also means equipping teachers and school staff with the skills needed to integrate all vulnerable children in classrooms, providing language classes and mental health and psychosocial support.
This autumn, UNICEF, with the support of the European Union, plans to repair shelters in 80 schools and kindergartens across Ukraine, providing access to full-time education in the new school year for more than 50,000 girls and boys.