KYIV, 1 September 2023 – More than 40% of children in Ukraine will not be able to go back to school fulltime when classes open 1 September and will have to rely on online or hybrid learning due to a lack of bomb shelters in schools and threat of air strikes, Save the Children said today.
As the second academic year in wartime starts, the number of children set to attend in-person education is expected to increase to 2.3 million from 1.3 million last school year. But an estimated 1.7 million children – or 42% – will have limited access to in-person teaching, according to assessments by Ukraine’s Ministry of Education. This includes about one million students who will rely solely on remote learning. 
Myroslav*, 12, lives in a village in eastern Kharkiv region, just 70 km (43 miles) from the frontline in Donbas. Myroslav is in sixth grade, but he has already spent half of his education learning from home, first due to the COVID pandemic, and now because of conflict.
“I might go blind soon because I use my smartphone so much for lessons. How long have I been using it this way – two or three years? I cannot understand the information properly. If it is offline – it is better”, Myroslav* said. “I used to have better grades than now. Sometimes the internet goes out, there's lagging, and we cannot hear our teacher. It is a common problem.”
Myroslav* is likely to start another academic year from home as the threat of shelling is high in the area. On studying during the first year of the war, he said: “We had rocket launcher attacks just outside the village. Every five minutes something was flying overhead. How could one study like that?”
Only schools equipped with bomb shelters that can fit all students and staff during air raid alerts are allowed to fully re-open. According to the Prime Minister of Ukraine, only three out of four schools have these protective shelters. A total of 4,000 shelters are yet to be built or refurbished in schools across the country, mostly in Kherson, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Kharkiv and Dnipro regions, where the threat of air strikes is highest.
The school that Yevheniia*, 16, attends in Dnipro has a shelter, but it can only accommodate a portion of students and teachers, forcing her to learn primarily from home. While Yevheniia*’s marks have suffered, she is most worried about her social skills moving forward into adulthood. This will be her final year at school before graduation and applying to university.
“Online learning has affected my relationships with classmates. There is less communication, so I have started to feel lost in society. I cannot find the right words, or express my opinion on certain topics,” Yevheniia* said.
Since the escalation of the war in February 2022, more than 360 education institutions in Ukraine have been destroyed, and about 3,400 more damaged – most of them in frontline areas.
“The school in our village is destroyed because it was hit by missiles. After the school collapsed, I had to study online. And our internet is bad. On 1 September, I want my school to open,” said Maryna*, 12.
She attends classes provided by Save the Children’s mobile learning groups in Mykolaiv region. The groups help children to access curriculum materials, digital learning devices and software in remote communities. Up to 80,000 teachers and 200,000 children from disadvantaged backgrounds across Ukraine lack laptops or tablets to maintain stable access to online classes.
Even in the parts of Ukraine that are further away from active combat, it is still dangerous for children to attend school as the threat of missile strikes remains high across the country. Air raid alerts are daily, forcing children to rush from classrooms to underground shelters.
“Everything is ready for learning at our school. As for the shelter, we have the basement. At the end of the previous school year, there were strikes, and it was a little scary. We felt anxious and tired because of constant danger and loud explosions,” Nina*, an eight-grader from Kyiv region said.
“We can already distinguish it by sound, whether it is a missile or a drone flying. But I want a peaceful sky without missiles.”
The UK government committed an additional £127 million funding to support Ukraine’s recovery . It is crucial that this new funding is used for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of schools, so that they can be disaster-resilient, inclusive and accessible to meet the needs of all children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.
Sonia Khush, Save the Children Ukraine Country Director, said:
“Children in Ukraine face another year of disrupted education. While there have been some improvements from last year, millions of children still do not have access to adequate in-person teaching.
“After two years of war, we have thousands of children who have not set foot in classrooms or met their teachers and classmates in person. Going to school is vital not just for children’s education, but also for their social skills. Schools should be safe, happy places for children to learn while being supported and protected. These are some the most crucial years of their lives, and any disruptions to education can have long-term consequences all the way to adulthood. Children must be able to study without fear and anxiety over their safety.”
In Ukraine, Save the Children helps to rehabilitate damaged schools, kindergartens, and shelters, and has established a network of Digital Learning Centres to help children access online education. The aid organisation also trains teachers, develops offline applications so children can enjoy reading at any time, and distributes Education Kits which contain pens, colouring pencils, notepads, and educational materials.
*names have been changed to protect identity
-  Methodology: In May 2023, 1.321 million (33% of total 4.001 million total students) children in Ukraine were attending schools in-person, while 1.475 million students (36.9%) were learning online, and 1.205 (30.1%) million were learning in blended mode, combining online and offline classes, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Education. A total of 2.68 million children had impaired access to in-person education.
In September 2023, an additional one million of students are supposed to access in-person education, according to MoE prognosis; an estimated total of 2.321 million (58% of 4.001 million total students) children are expected back at schools this academic year, while the remaining 1.68 million students (42%) will be accessing classes either online, or in blended mode.
Of 1.68 million school students, Save the Children estimates about 55% of children (1.475/2.68=0.55=55%) or about 925,000 (1.68*0,55=0.925) to learn online, and 45% of children (1.205/2.68=0.45=45%) or about 755,000 to study in blended mode.
- Save the Children have rehabilitated seven schools and 15 school shelters across Ukraine so far so children could return to offline learning. The aid organisation has also established 80 Digital Learning Centres (DLC) across Ukraine for children to have safe and supportive environment that provides access to electronic devices and learning software.
In frontline Mykolaiv region, Save the Children established a Digital Learning Centre for teachers so they have access to electronic devices whenever they need to hold online classes, and can host in-person lessons with some of their students. The aid organisation also runs mobile learning groups to bring education to children in remote communities severely affected by war.
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