Written by Katerina Chalenko
On February 24, 2022, Thursday, at 3:40 am, a full-scale war broke out in Ukraine.
Undoubtedly, the hostilities in the country have a negative impact on the psychological and physical condition of the citizens, both children and adults. Entire families were forced to hide from constant shelling, leave their homes and flee to other regions or countries due the danger situation in the regions where they live.
The martial law in Ukraine has changed the lives of every citizen and affected all spheres of life.
But how did the war affect education in Ukraine?
Within weeks of the invasion, nearly 16 million Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge abroad and in other parts of Ukraine. Many of these were women and children, causing significant harm to Ukraine’s majority female teaching force and their students.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers around the world developed remote teaching skills. Now that the war has again divided their classrooms, Ukrainian teachers have adapted these skills to teach students across Europe and the world.
Like Ukraine itself, which has shown tremendous resistance, educators (teachers, professors, etc.) have continued their educational efforts despite enormous odds. Since the military invasion, teachers have continued to teach their students in bomb shelters during active bombardment. Gas stations and grocery stores powered by generators are turning into centers for filming virtual lessons.
Ukraine’s response and persistent challenges to Education
Ukraine’s literacy rate is 99.8%, one of the highest in the world, and education is a source of national pride. In wartime, the Ukrainian government is working to adapt the education system to new realities.
The day after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine recommended that the educational process in educational institutions of all levels be suspended and that students be sent on a two-week vacation. During this time, part of Ukraine’s territory was temporarily occupied, and a number of cities and villages (Mariupol, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, and others) became the scene of active hostilities.
On March 14, the educational process began to resume in areas where the security situation allowed it.
Children who live far from the hostilities zone and did not move to other regions of Ukraine or abroad during the war are enrolled in full-time, distance, or mixed forms of education.
However, due to prolonged air raids and power outages of several hours, the educational process in the safe areas is also interrupted. After all, when teachers and students are in a shelter during an air raid or without electricity and, accordingly, high-quality Internet, participants in the educational process cannot continue either full-time or distance learning at this time. Therefore, students spend a significant portion of their school time studying on their own. All this only exacerbates educational losses.
Students, who have been forced to change their place of residence within Ukraine, sometimes even repeatedly, experience interruptions in their education and educational losses. For internally displaced students, one of the biggest challenges is adapting to a new environment and integrating into a new educational institution and establishing communication with teachers and peers. Loss or separation from loved ones, separation from friends, change of residence, stress from the events experienced, because someone left the very “center of hell” – all this causes psychological stress for the child.
One of the most difficult is the situation with children living in the hostilities zone or on the contact line or close to the hostilities zone. There is currently no information on the number of such children who remain close to these zones.
Children in these territories are in constant danger, under fire, forced to hide in basements or other safe places as far as possible. There is often no communication, electricity, gas, water, or heat supply in these areas, some of the houses are destroyed, and children have no more or less equipped shelter or refuge. Therefore, the main thing here is to preserve the lives and health of children, and the educational process should be implemented whenever possible – and only in those forms that do not expose children to additional danger. Some children do not study at all, while others study independently where possible. Therefore, this group of children will suffer the greatest educational losses. At the same time, as we have already noted, children in difficult life circumstances also need special attention.
Each group of students has two common problems. These are educational losses, which are different for all groups of students, because it is clear that children who live far from the combat zone and have not changed their place of residence will have less educational losses than other children. Therefore, each educational institution and each community should have an individual strategy for compensating for educational losses, as well as a general state Ukrainian strategy for compensating for educational losses.
Another common problem is the need for psychological assistance to all groups of students, the level of which will also vary depending on the circumstances experienced by the child.
Access to education requires
First, education in times of war is an important topic that requires cooperation between government agencies, aid organizations, and the international community to maximize educational opportunities and protect children in such difficult circumstances. Cooperation with local organizations, social workers, and independent experts is needed to ensure that educational opportunities for children are adapted and accessible.
Secondly, to ensure access to education during war, it is necessary to provide sufficient financial resources, appropriate infrastructure and equipment.
Thirdly, it is important to remember that education in time of war is not limited to learning with books. Children need a variety of educational opportunities, including social and emotional support, cultural activities, and access to media and technology.
Fourth, education should be adapted to the situation of war and meet the needs of children to help them adapt to life in difficult circumstances in the future.
And most importantly, one of the key aspects of education in times of war is ensuring the safety of children and teachers. During war, schools are often targeted, resulting in loss of life and destruction of equipment. Schools need to be secured to protect the lives of children and teachers and ensure the continuity of the educational process.
In addition, education in time of war should be accessible to all children, regardless of their social status or religious affiliation. War-related migration and unequal access to education can lead to discrimination and exclusion of some children. It is necessary to ensure accessible and equal educational opportunities for all children to prevent discrimination and ensure equal chances for all children in the future. This requires cooperation with local organizations, social workers, and independent experts to develop and implement strategies to ensure that education is accessible to all children during war.
For sure, war has a significant negative impact on education, but with the right efforts and support, it is possible to mitigate these effects and help children in the future. Of course, many students do not have access to educational programs or the opportunity to join online learning. Those students who have traveled abroad face language problems and struggle to adapt to a different learning system.
Despite the fact that every student was in a terrible and difficult situation, the educational process resumed in spite of everything.