The War and COVID Pandemic in Ukraine Leave 6.7 Million Children with Significant Educational Gaps, Says UNICEF
Continued attacks on education in Ukraine and low school enrollment in host countries hinder the education of Ukrainian students.
“In Ukraine, attacks on schools continue in full force, putting children at enormous risk and depriving them of safe places to learn. This is why children in Ukraine are failing to advance in their education and it is forcing them to fight to keep what they learned when their schools were fully functioning,” said Regina de Dominicis, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.
According to data from a recent survey, 57% of teachers reported a decline in students’ Ukrainian language skills, 45% reported a decline in math skills, and 52% reported a decline in foreign language skills.
School enrollment data show that only a third of primary and middle-school aged children enrolled in school in Ukraine are in full attendance. One-third of enrolled students study through a blended approach – face-to-face and online, and one-third study entirely online.
Online learning can supplement face-to-face learning and provide a short-term solution, but it cannot completely replace face-to-face classes, which are especially important for young children’s social development and fundamental learning.
@UNICEF Bulgaria 2023 – Lilia Yotova
For refugee children from Ukraine, the new school year also marks the start of another uncertain school year, as more than half of children from pre-school to high school are not enrolled in national education systems in the seven refugee-hosting countries.
Children in pre-school and middle-school age are most likely to miss their education. Language barriers, difficult access to school and overburdened education systems are among the reasons for the low enrollment rate.
As the new school year approaches, more and more Ukrainian families want to enroll their children in Bulgarian schools. UNICEF supports the “Back to School” initiatives throughout the country and will continue its efforts for the integration of refugee children from Ukraine and their inclusion in the educational system in Bulgaria.
“For refugee children who have already experienced loss, displacement and violence, schools are more than a place to learn. They provide a sense of routine and security, an opportunity for children to build friendships and receive help from their teachers.
Schools can also provide access to services to support children’s mental health and well-being. In Bulgaria, we are working with donors and partners to help Ukrainian children learn and develop in UNICEF-supported learning centers and Bulgarian schools,” said Christina de Bruin, UNICEF representative in Bulgaria.
In 2023, UNICEF in Bulgaria provided access to formal and informal education for over 10,000 Ukrainian children. UNICEF supports a network of learning and play centers in the largest receiving areas such as Burgas, Plovdiv, Sofia and Varna and the integration of children in local schools through language courses, school supplies and support for teachers and mediators.
Over 50,000 Ukrainian and Bulgarian children have already received learning materials provided by UNICEF in Bulgarian schools where Ukrainian children are enrolled.
Refugee children who are not yet part of the education system of their host countries are likely to try to study online in the Ukrainian curriculum or through other distance learning platforms.
Some refugee children may have given up on education altogether. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable, as their physical and mental vulnerability, natural to their age, is heightened by the interruption of their studies and the stress they experience.
UNICEF works with governments and partners on the ground in Ukraine and in countries where refugee children and families live to help improve access to quality education.
This means supporting the inclusion of children in national education systems and providing multiple learning opportunities for children who are not currently enrolled. UNICEF supports teachers and school staff with the necessary skills to integrate all vulnerable children into classrooms, provide them with the language courses they need and provide them with mental health and psychosocial support.
The educational reform carried out in Ukraine, which aims to develop the competencies of children and young people, is of crucial importance for the future socio-economic recovery and development of the country. According to data from a national survey in Ukraine, two-thirds of preschool children do not attend kindergarten. In frontline areas, three-quarters of parents report not sending their children to preschool.
UNICEF is working with the Government of Ukraine to support the restoration of the learning process and its alignment with regional standards to remove barriers to education and ensure lifelong learning for all.
This includes rebuilding schools and providing much-needed catch-up classes in core subjects, with the goal of helping 300,000 children in Ukraine at risk of learning loss in the next school year. At the same time, longer-term support will be provided by supporting early childhood education systems and services on a national scale.
About UNICEF:For 77 years, UNICEF has been working in the most difficult places to reach the most vulnerable children. In over 190 countries and territories, they work for every child, everywhere, to create a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF, visit www.unicef.org/Bulgaria.