Struggles Amidst Unabated School Attacks
Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, has returned from Ukraine with distressing observations. The relentless attacks on schools have created a dire situation, leaving children without safe spaces to learn.
Learning Setbacks and Distress
The impact of these attacks goes beyond physical harm. Children in Ukraine are facing not only the disruption of their education but also the struggle to retain the knowledge they had gained before the schools were targeted.
Learning Decline Indicators
Survey data reveals alarming trends. Around 57 percent of teachers report a decline in students’ Ukrainian language abilities. Additionally, up to 45 percent of educators note a reduction in math skills, while 52 percent point to a decrease in foreign language proficiency.
Education in Ukraine has taken a hit. Only a third of primary and secondary students experience fully in-person learning. Another-third engage in a mixed approach of in-person and online learning, while one-third resort to fully remote methods.
Balancing Online Learning
While online learning can offer short-term solutions and complement in-person classes, it can’t replace the vital role of face-to-face education. The social development and foundational learning crucial for young children are compromised in remote setups, as highlighted by the UNICEF Director.
Struggles Beyond Attacks
Beyond the attacks, national survey data reveals deeper challenges. Shockingly, two-thirds of preschool-age children are not attending any form of learning facility. In frontline areas, a staggering three-quarters of parents are refraining from sending their kids to preschool, according to UNICEF.
Ukraine’s refugee children are facing even more uncertainty. More than half of these children, from preschool to secondary school age, are not enrolled in national education systems across seven refugee-hosting countries.
Barriers to Learning
Barriers such as language obstacles, limited school access, and strained education systems contribute to this crisis. UNICEF identifies pre-schoolers and secondary-age students as particularly vulnerable to missing out on education opportunities.
Varied Learning Attempts
Some young refugees are striving to continue their education online, utilizing either the Ukrainian curriculum or other distance learning platforms. However, a disheartening number may have altogether abandoned their pursuit of education, UNICEF warns.
Schools as Havens
In times of crisis, schools become more than just places of learning. Ms. De Dominicis emphasizes that they provide a sense of routine, and safety, and a platform for children who have experienced loss, displacement, and violence to build friendships and seek support from teachers.
Comprehensive Support and Beyond
The significance of schools extends to access to vaccines, nutrition, and services supporting mental health. UNICEF is actively collaborating with governments and partners in Ukraine and refugee-hosting countries to enhance access to quality learning for all.
UNICEF’s collaborative approach is not limited to immediate relief. The agency is working closely with the Ukrainian Government to recover learning opportunities and align with regional standards to ensure a barrier-free education for every child.
Rehabilitation and Catch-Up
This commitment encompasses school rehabilitation and the provision of essential catch-up classes in core subjects. UNICEF’s aim is to support 300,000 children in Ukraine, who are at risk of learning setbacks, over the upcoming school year.