UNICEF: War marred the beginning of the school year for four million Ukrainian schoolchildren

Since the beginning of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, thousands of schools have been damaged or destroyed, according to UNICEF. Far from all schools opened on September 1: the government recognized less than 60% of the country’s schools as safe. According to the NPR news agency, about 2,300 educational institutions were damaged and almost 300 destroyed as a result of the fighting in Ukraine. In about a quarter of schools, studies will start in person. In the rest of them, administrations will try to manage the school year online.

On the first day of the new school year, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell visited a rebuilt primary school in Zhytomyr, which was damaged at the start of the war. Now only 300 students can safely study in it at the same time, which corresponds to 14% of the pre-war number of students (the limitation is due to the size of the bomb shelter).

“Children’s education in Ukraine has been hit hard. After more than two years of a pandemic and six months of the war, the physical and mental health of children is under enormous strain. Much needs to be done to support them in this situation. Schools in Ukraine are now in desperate need of bomb shelters. During the lessons, children are taught how to behave if there is an unexploded shell next to them, instead of traffic rules. This is a harsh reality for Ukrainian students, parents and teaching staff,” Russell said.

Refugee children also face problems, although there is no immediate threat to their lives and well-being. As of July 31, 2022, approximately 650,000 Ukrainian refugee children stranded in 12 host countries were still not integrated into the normal school system.

“As winter approaches, life for children and their families in Ukraine will become even more difficult,” Russell said. “It won’t be long before freezing temperatures and snowfalls, so schools desperately need winter clothes, warm clothes, shoes, generators, heaters and fuel.”