The armed conflict has taken an unparalleled toll on Ukraine’s civilians. Endless families have struggled to meet fundamental needs, such as housing, food, and proper hygiene. Education is no exception.
So far, 2188 educational institutions have suffered severe damage due to bombing and shelling. Of those, 221 got destroyed to the ground. While Putin’s officials claim they only aim at military objects, Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science regularly publishes evidence that refutes this statement.
Besides schools and universities, many kindergartens and orphanages are also dysfunctional. Over 7,000,000 children of war don’t attend lessons at all or follow lectures virtually. So, how is this Ukraine conflict going to reflect on children?
Invasion of Ukraine Explained
The tensions between the two countries have been on for a long time. The first boiling point came in 2014 when the aggressor invaded a sovereign territory because the pro-Russian president got removed from office. Separatists seized a significant portion of eastern Ukraine and claimed independence in Donetsk and Luhansk. The aggressor illegally annexed Crimea.
Since Ukraine is a former Soviet republic, the cultural, language, and social ties with Russia are indisputable. Yet, after 2014, the close relations shattered. Since then, over 14,000 people have lost their lives in the Donbas region. And besides the Minsk peace agreement, the conflict is still brewing.
Things worsened in 2021 when Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy started discussing the country’s accession to NATO with US President Joe Biden. Putin angered and started amassing troops near the Ukraine border. He spoke of military training for a year, but the troops’ deployment wasn’t stopping.
The Russian president has always denied the sovereignty of Ukraine. Moreover, he claims the country is a puppet of the US. Now, he seeks legally binding guarantees that NATO will give up its military presence in the region.
As a result of the war, many EU states and the US announced severe sanctions against the Russian state and its entities. However, the tension, which borders the European Union, oversplit, with repercussions for the entire continent.
Lessons Interrupted by Air-Raid Sirens
Studying and lecturing amid a war is close to impossible. Many children follow lessons in substandard conditions, have no access to the Internet, or hide in shelters. Teachers face similar challenges. Like pupils, they constantly flee for the safer parts of the country and have families stuck in devastated areas.
Roger Smith, a war psychologist who also works as a writer for a company PapersOwl, states: “Besides their fears and difficulties, brave educators struggle to overcome students’ psychological challenges. They try to calm the children with breathing exercises and daily mood check-ins. And they frequently halt lessons due to air-raid sirens, particularly in Kharkiv and Kyiv.” He continues: “It is impossible to evaluate the psychological damage these children have gone through, let alone the physical one. The civilized countries must not ignore the situation.”
Many students miss lessons because they aren’t in a safe space or have relocated to another area. Some manage to log on to their phones and catch up with their peers. And while homework and projects are off limits, they can get help online. This way, they feel they’re sharing their worries with the world.
Often, the school routine eases children’s burden and gets their minds off the war. Talking to each other and the teacher reminds them of their pre-war lives. Communication brings hope that things will get back to normal again.
Stay with Your Classmates or Go to a New School?
Many people living in war-struck regions have moved to the safer parts of Ukraine. Countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania have also accepted Ukrainian students and opened learning hubs. More like informal settings, these places allow children to follow remote lessons with teachers based in Ukraine.
The upside of this approach is that they can chat with their classmates back home and stay in the same school but virtually. In the hub, they play sports and have extracurricular activities. Support and job options for mothers are also available, as well as accommodation facilities.
Other pupils start over in their new environments. For instance, millions of children who fled to Poland had several options to choose from. There are special classes with Ukrainian teachers who use curriculums and hold lectures in their mother tongue. Newly-arrived refugees with experience as educators eagerly take on teaching openings abroad. Still, many newcomers decide to enroll in Polish schools.
In farther countries, such as Denmark, Ireland, and Germany, absorbing Ukrainian children is more ad hoc. International organizations like UNICEF also facilitate remote learning. Refugees gradually adjust to the new conditions and enter the system as they arrive. However, they never forget their homeland and hope to return to their classrooms one day.
College Students in Ukraine Prepare for their Future during a Threat from the Russian Invasion
Students manage to continue with online learning. Even displaced children and those in cities under attack follow courses, despite the numerous challenges. However, many learners can’t get near campuses, visit libraries, and provide essential supplies. Even the staff can’t return to higher education facilities and work from home.
The autumn semester is another pending issue. Universities face question marks over recruitment and arranging courses. Hiring enough professors is another obstacle they need to overcome. The only favorable circumstance is that, due to the pandemic, many schools were already working remotely. Hence, the education system had an established structure to continue the process.
Putin’s forces wanted to create and impose their curricula in the invaded parts, but very few agreed to cooperate. In these regions, almost nobody attends university in person.
Refugee children out of school are the worst that can happen to the world. Since education is chronically underfunded in humanitarian crises, raising proper funding is critical. As soon as the fighting stops, financial resources will be vital for rebuilding classrooms, libraries, and playgrounds.
Remote lectures have never been a long-term substitute for quality in-school education. Not only do ruined facilities hinder schooling, but they also jeopardize the restoration of whole economies and communities. Safeguarding education in Ukraine and globally is the best we can do to give the next generations a brighter future.