Russia’s full-scale war is shattering a children’s education in Ukraine

18 sept., 2023

Russia’s war in Ukraine is having a catastrophic impact on children’s education.

Since the full-scale war started, Ukraine’s educational facilities have suffered significant material damage as well as human losses with teachers, students, and parents being killed by Russian aggression. Recurring electrical outages, persistent air raid sirens, and rising demands for psychological services is also hampering learning.

The unstable environment is already having negative impacts on the grades and preparation of hundreds of thousands of children, whose right to an education is being shattered by the 18-month war. 

“The preschool institution my children went to was partially destroyed by rocket debris,” Halyna Marmelyuk, a mother to sons aged five and six who works at a local post office in the Kyiv region, told „For almost a year, my children could not attend preparatory classes.”

After Russia invaded in February last year, about 800,000 Ukrainian school children switched from full-time physical attendance to online learning or home schooling. Student’s in the war-torn nation’s eastern and southern regions have been the most affected: about 40% and 30% of children, respectively, have been forced to either move abroad or to other regions of Ukraine.

Today, nearly one in every 10 Ukrainian schools has suffered material damage by the war,  and more than 1,500 secondary schools have been significantly damaged or completely destroyed amid the fighting.

In late August, a school in Romny in Ukraine’s northeastern Sumy region, was struck by a Shahed drone deployed by Russian forces, killing four teachers including the school’s headmaster, the deputy director, a secretary and a librarian. In Komyshuvakha in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region, another school – which was completely renovated before the war – was also destroyed this summer by Moscow’s troops.

“Last year, we studied entirely remotely,” said Alla, the head of a school in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region who did not want to use her surname for security reasons. “This year, we plan to conduct lessons in a mixed form: some of the children will study at school, and some will study at home or work remotely.” 

“We can’t work normally now,” she added, “because our bomb shelter can’t accommodate everyone at the school.”

Oksen Lisovyi, Ukraine’s Minister of Education and Science told Ukraine’s Public Broadcasting Company in August that about 7,000 bomb shelters still need to be built at Ukraine’s schools. 

This year, depending on the security situation in different regions and the availability of bomb shelters at educational facilities, lessons are being held in three formats: full-time physical attendance, distance learning, or a mix of the two. 

In addition to the restoration of educational facilities and the construction of bomb shelters, Ukraine’s schools are lacking basics such as textbooks, digital devices, and school buses due to material losses resulting from the war. 

About 74% of Ukrainian children are currently using smartphones for learning. But while the devices offer an opportunity for many children to continue learning, they cannot sufficiently replace full-time physical attendance.

“I would like all teachers and children to be provided with their own laptops, because, unfortunately there aren’t enough of them,” said Alla, the school head. “Today, only 60 percent of teachers in our school are provided with laptops.”

In the previous academic year, 53% of school heads said that air raid sirens hindered the educational process and 41% and 35% respectively reported disruptions due to electrical outages and Internet connectivity issues. 

“It was especially difficult in the fall and winter, when air alarms lasted for three to four hours,” said Marianna Rud, whose children are ages nine and 11. “The pupils were in the bomb shelter … in such conditions, teachers did not have the opportunity to fully conduct lessons.” 

Rud added that frequent blackouts prevented her children from attending school. “The same with online lessons, they were often interrupted due to Internet problems,” she said. “The educational process was not very effective.”

The full-scale war, however, has not only worsened the quality of education, it has also triggered a rise in psycho-emotional distress for many children. Alla, the school director, said that in the previous academic year, the demand for the school’s psychological services from both children and teachers skyrocketed.

Rud, the mother of two, agrees. 

“If one of the children started to cry or was afraid, the fear was transmitted to the others – and everyone began to cry,” she said. “Children were especially scared when explosions occurred.”

Edited by Stephen McGrath
Photo: Since the full-scale war started, many schools now operate in metro stations (Photo source: Ministry of Interior of Ukraine)

Despre autor: Alina Okolot

Avatar of Alina Okolot
Alina Okolot este o jurnalistă ucraineană din Kiev care lucrează în presă din 2017. Alina a lucrat ca reporter TV în departamentul de știri al canalului PravdaTut TV unde a documentat știri din sectoare diverse, de la politic la economic, cultură și sport. Ea a lucrat de asemenea ca editor de programe educaționale și de divertisment pentru canalul Kiev TV și pentru ediția online a Adevărului de Irpin. Alina spune că jurnalismul este vocația sa. Ea s-a alăturat echipei CONTEXT, după ce s-a mutat în România. Ca jurnalist, ea se ocupă de investigarea crimelor de război comise de Rusia în Ucraina, țara sa natală. Ea scrie des despre corupție și documentează poveștile martorilor în subiecte legate de război. Țelul Alinei este să arate lumii adevărul printr-un jurnalism de calitate.

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