The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) continues to highlight how the war is having a dramatic impact on the lives and futures of Ukraine’s children.
“The start of the academic year in Ukraine was one of hope and promise for children following COVID-19 disruptions,” said Murat Sahin, the agency’s Representative to Ukraine.
“Instead, hundreds of children have been killed, and the school year ends amid the closure of classrooms due to war and the decimation of educational facilities.”
Education under fire
Since Russia’s invasion, hundreds of schools across the country are reported to have been hit due to use of heavy artillery, airstrikes, and other explosive weapons. Others are being used as information centres, shelters, supply hubs, or for military purposes.
At least one in six UNICEF-supported schools in the east of the country have been damaged or destroyed, including the only “Safe School” in Mariupol.
The “Safe Schools” programme was established with the education ministry, primarily in response to attacks on kindergartens and schools in the Donbas region, where armed conflict has simmered since Russian-backed separatists took charge in some areas in 2014.
A safe space for children
UNICEF said being in classrooms was critical for children affected by crisis, as it provides a safe space and a semblance of normality, and also ensures that they do not miss out on learning.
“Ensuring access to education can be the difference between a sense of hope or despair for millions of children,” Mr. Sahin added. “This is crucial for their future and that of all Ukraine.”
Amid the conflict, UNICEF and partners are working to provide as many children as possible with safe and appropriate learning opportunities.
An online education programme for grades 5-11, developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to reach more than 80,000 students displaced in Ukraine.
In the northeastern city of Kharkiv, children have been forced to seek shelter and safety in metro stations. UNICEF-supported volunteers have set up spaces in these locations where teachers, psychologists and sports instructors play and engage children on a regular basis.
Other initiatives include an ongoing digital campaign to educate children about explosive ordnance risk, which has reached eight million users online, while a new online kindergarten platform regularly receives hundreds of thousands of views.
Millions of youngsters have also fled Ukraine for other countries. UNICEF is supporting governments and municipalities to include these children in their national school systems, along with alternative education pathways such as digital learning.