UNICEF warned today that 11 months of Russian war in Ukraine has disrupted the education of more than five million children, calling for more “support to ensure learning opportunities” in the country and in host countries.
On the date that marks International Education Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) drew attention to the importance of “greater international support to ensure that children are no longer left behind”, recalling that “the impact of 11 months of conflict has exacerbated the two years of learning lost due to the covid-19 pandemic” and the consequences of “more than eight years of war for children in eastern Ukraine”.
“Schools and other pre-primary education providers provide children with an essential sense of routine and security, and failure to learn can have lifelong consequences,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, cited in the organization’s communiqué.
“There is no pause button. It is simply not an option to postpone children’s education and return to it when other priorities have been addressed, without risking the future of an entire generation,” she insisted.
According to the UN specialized agency, “the continued use of explosive weapons – including in inhabited areas – has meant that thousands of schools, preschools and other education facilities across the country have been damaged or destroyed” and, at the same time, “ many parents and caregivers are reluctant to send children to school due to safety concerns”.
In the statement, UNICEF states that “within Ukraine, it is working with the Government to help get children back to school” – in classrooms, when they are considered safe, or through ‘online’ or online alternatives. community, “if face-to-face learning is not possible”.
The organization indicates that, until recently, “more than 1.9 million children had access to ‘online’ learning opportunities and 1.3 million children were enrolled in a hybrid system of face-to-face and ‘online’ classes”, but recent bombings of power stations and other energy infrastructure “have caused widespread blackouts and left nearly all children in Ukraine without permanent access to electricity, meaning that even attending virtual classes is a constant challenge.”
Outside Ukraine, continues UNICEF, the situation “is equally worrying, with an estimate that two out of three Ukrainian refugee children are not currently enrolled in the host country’s education system”.
According to the UN agency, several factors contribute to this scenario, including overloaded educational structures and “the fact that, at the beginning of the crisis and throughout the summer, many refugee families opted for ‘online’ learning instead of to attend local schools, because they hoped to be able to return home quickly”.
Inside Ukraine, the organization calls for “an end to attacks on education facilities and other civil structures, including energy infrastructure, on which children and families depend”.
In refugee-hosting countries, UNICEF calls for priority to be given to “the integration of Ukrainian refugee children into national education systems at all levels of education, especially early childhood education and primary education – with qualified teachers, learning materials and spaces available to support their face-to-face learning, development and well-being”, the note also reads.
“It is important that the relevant authorities identify and overcome the regulatory and administrative barriers that prevent children from accessing formal education at all levels, and provide clear and accessible information to refugee families”, stressed the organization, adding that “when access the education system cannot be immediately assured, UNICEF calls for the provision of multiple learning paths, especially for children of secondary school age”.
The military offensive launched on February 24, 2022 by Russia in Ukraine has so far caused the flight of more than 14 million people – 6.5 million internally displaced and almost eight million to European countries -, according to the latest data. of the UN, which classifies this refugee crisis as the worst in Europe since the Second World War (1939-1945).
At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian aid and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and shelter.