New school year gives youngsters hope in Ukraine
Mariia has found new strength and new hope for the future, despite a devastating war.
Like millions of children across Ukraine, where war has devastated homes and schools, 12-year-old Mariia has spent the last few months trapped in a nightmare.
“My school was hit about a month ago, in July. I don’t know why they bombed it. I thought COVID was bad, but this has been the worst time of my life.”
Along with her family and friends, Mariia was forced to shelter from the bombs and gunfire in a dark basement in Kharkiv, for nights at a time.
“Our area was under shelling and I’d be down there with my friends holding hands,” she recalls. “My friend had an asthma attack and I had to calm her down. I told her that everything would be alright, that we won’t die and we will survive.”
Over time, she found strength in adversity – and hopes to help others find the same.
“I think I started to understand myself better,” says the youngster. “Since I was not spending time with my friends because all of them were gone and I didn’t go to school, I could continue my self-development in other ways. I started a gratitude journal and started meditating, because it all helps to better understand oneself. I started getting interested in psychology even more and I realised who I want to be in the future and what I need for that.”
“I like to talk to people to learn about them and I want to help with their mental illness or difficulties,” she continues. “There’s going to be a lot of need for psychological help because of the war. I want to be able to help to solve problems.”
Because much of her school in Kharkiv was destroyed in the air strike, Mariia will be studying online when classes resume this September.
“I like my school because of the teachers who respect and love us and try to teach us a lot,” she says. “I prefer studying at school because I have friends there and I enjoy seeing them and chatting with them. We also get to discuss a lot of things with the teachers even when we just meet in the corridor.”
For now, Mariia’s main hope is for peace.
“My biggest wish is that there will never be any wars,” she says. “Because it traumatises and kills people. Humanity does not deserve it. We should not be dying for nothing.”
The dramatic escalation of the war in Ukraine has left millions of families in urgent need of safety, protection and humanitarian support. Even before the fighting broke out, COVID-19 had interrupted quality education for children, leaving millions to learn alone in front of their schoolbooks and screens. Today, it is uncertain if – and how many – schools will open from 1 September so that children can return to their classes together with their teachers and friends.
UNICEF, in partnership with the Government of Ukraine, is developing a national Back to Learning programme to ensure safe, quality learning for every child in Ukraine that will include:
- Access for primary school children to face-to-face, hybrid or digital learning from September 2022 in safe child-friendly environments.
- Quality blended learning for adolescents (middle and high school).
- Quality Online Learning for all children through the All Ukrainian Online School Platform.
- Restoration of affected schools and provision of supplies to educators and students to ensure access to education.
- Mental health and psychosocial support in schools for educators and students.
- Healthy living in schools – nutrition, hygiene and infection prevention, as well as explosive ordnance safe practices