Ukraine’s school children struggle with years of lost learning
UNICEF is working with partners to help children in Ukraine to catch up with their studies after years of upheaval
Twelve-year-old Zhenia can barely remember what it feels like to sit at a desk, to wait for the break bell to ring or to head to the school cafeteria with his classmates. Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, he has been studying remotely since the third grade.
Last year, Zhenia and his family were forced to leave their home in Chuhuiv, in the Kharkivska region, due to the worsening security situation. Adjusting to a new city, a new school and new teachers who he has mostly only met via a screen has been challenging.
"This year is much more difficult for me,” says the boy, who has yet to make friends in the city of Valky. “And the grades – let's just say they have worsened significantly. My maths skills have deteriorated a lot. I'm trying to improve somehow."
However, with the help of face-to-face classes, organized by the Spivdiia NGO with the support of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Zhenia is now catching up on his studies three times a week at a specially equipped space. During air raids, he and his classmates are able to continue studying in a shelter.
"My favourite subject is chemistry. I believe it's a fascinating field with endless possibilities. That's why I want to be great and be remembered in this domain"
Thirteen-year-old Liza has also spent years studying remotely and is now in the seventh grade in a frontline village in the Kharkivska region. She has not been able to see her friends or go for walks, and frequent electricity and internet outages in the region have transformed her once-favourite subject of maths into a completely incomprehensible one.
"Now maths is divided into algebra and geometry, which I don't understand at all,” says Liza. “Additional difficult subjects have appeared. Because of the air raids, many lessons at school are interrupted, and some disappear altogether."
Fortunately, one of her friends recently recommended enrolling in the face-to-face ‘Catching Up’ programme run by UNICEF and Spivdiia.
"There is a very cosy atmosphere here, and it helps to tune in to study. Geometry was the most difficult for me. But now I have grasped the essence of how to solve complex problems, and I am doing well. I attend every lesson."
Karina, the coordinator of the centre in Krasnokutsk, has seen the impact of distance learning on students in recent years.
"Children are less and less likely to turn on the camera and join the lessons,” she says. “They don't have time to master the programme. We see a lot of different gaps in different subjects."
Karina says that the new face-to-face classes are transforming children’s lives. For many children, these classes are not just a chance to catch up on the curriculum, but also an opportunity to build confidence, meet their peers and find new friends.
"Our classes are unconventional, interactive, and playful. This approach helps to learn complex material. Through live communication with a teacher and a mentor, children realize that their problems can be solved, and they will receive assistance."
The ‘Catching Up’ programme is implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the Spivdiia NGO in 30 educational institutions in southern and eastern Ukraine. As of January 2024, the project has positively impacted 1675 children.