As school doors reopen for children in September, an estimated 3.6 million Ukrainian children are likely to be missing from class, according to international aid organisation, World Vision.
“The conflict is jeopardising the future for an entire generation of Ukrainian children. This time last year they were packing their school bags and looking forward to being reunited with school friends. Within the space of six months, their lives have drastically changed and now their access to education has been compromised or even entirely cut-off,” said Jennifer Neelsen, World Vision Ukraine Crisis Response Director.
The Save Schools in Ukraine Report, published by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, stated that 2,300 schools were damaged by bombing and shelling, and at least 286 were completely destroyed. In addition, 3,500 educational institutions are now being used as shelters.
“Going back to school gives children a sense of normality, but millions of boys and girls in Ukraine will miss the new school year, and it will be incredibly difficult to regain the time and opportunity to learn,” Neelsen stressed.
World Vision is providing informal education and catch-up materials to children in Ukraine, but says funding needs to be redirected to reach all children who are at risk of missing out on an education.
“Ukraine’s children must be provided with learning resources, opportunities and support through enhanced education programmes as the school year opens. The humanitarian community, with local partners, can provide this support, but funding is desperately needed to make it happen,” said Neelsen.
As well as missing out on an education, Ukraine’s children are also at risk of mental health problems. World Vision’s No Peace of Mind Report highlights that over 1.5 million children from Ukraine are at risk of suffering from mental health issues as a result of being exposed to the horrors of war.
“As always, innocent children are bearing the brunt of conflict. Many have witnessed violence and death, millions have been forced to leave their homes, their pets and even family members. Their lives have been torn apart. The international community must prioritise their mental health and education in order to avoid a lost generation for millions of children,” Neelsen said.
World Vision’s emergency response has assisted more than 277,000 people, with over 5,000 children being assisted through education programs. But the need is expected to rise as winter looms, potentially bringing more challenges.
“As the conflict begins to leave the media’s headline, we must not forget the continued and increasing needs of Ukraine’s children. They need structure, they need education, they need support. International aid organisations like World Vision are there to provide that support, but prioritised funding is desperately needed to make it happen, and make it happen now,” Neeslen said.