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Education During War

By:
Oleksandra (Sasha) Petrova
May 22, 2024

Since February 24, 2022, Ukrainian education has faced severe disruptions. In the initial weeks following the outbreak of war, all educational activities in Ukraine were suspended as people focused on ensuring their safety and making critical decisions about their futures. Within a month of the war's escalation, over 4.3 million Ukrainian children, representing more than half the nation's youth, were forced to relocate. Of these, over 40% moved outside Ukraine (UNICEF, 2022).

However, despite relocation or months of adjustment to Ukraine's new situation, education has not resumed its pre-conflict normalcy. Many children could not return to their original schools, which had been targets of Russian attacks. As of April 2023, 388 educational institutions have been completely destroyed, and 2,383 others have suffered damage (Minyailo, 2023). These figures represent 10% of all educational facilities in Ukraine.

For some students, education has resumed in person, and for others, online. However, it remains disrupted by the ongoing war. Between February 24, 2022, and December 27, 2023, Ukraine experienced 16,152 air raids during school hours, each lasting an average of 57 minutes (Air-alarms.in.ua, 2023). To ensure students safety, they are evacuated to bomb shelters with each air raid alert. While a few schools have adapted their shelters to allow for continued teaching, most are forced to stop lessons entirely during air threats. Teaching process is also frequently interrupted due to prolonged power outages caused by Russian attacks on Ukraine's power infrastructure.

It is also important to mention the emotional well-being of children and their teachers in Ukraine. Numerous individuals are coping with the loss of family members or friends, while everyone lives in the shadow of the ongoing threat of missiles potentially destroying  their homes and lives. Most have loved ones on the front lines, leading to heightened fear for their safety and well-being. As a result, people are experiencing increased stress, sleep deprivation, and extremely high levels of anxiety. Studies from previous conflicts suggest that approximately 22% of the population is likely to develop some form of mental health disorder as a result of war, equating to around 1.5 million Ukrainian children (World Vision Ukraine, 2022). 

Children who have relocated also face significant mental challenges, struggling to adapt to new environments, integrate into new schools due to language barriers, catch up on missed education, and cope with uncertainties about their future. According to Save the Children (2022), 50% of children under 16 living outside Ukraine experience anxiety, a figure that rises to 78% among those children over 16.

These challenges have a detrimental impact on the educational attainment of children. Many struggle with concentration, memory retention, and motivation. A UNICEF survey (2023) reveals that over half of the teachers have noticed a decline in students' proficiency in both native and foreign languages, while up to 45% report a decrease in mathematical skills.

Svitlo School is committed to providing Ukrainian children with access to quality education and a nurturing, open-minded environment. The diverse curriculum at Svitlo not only addresses gaps in standard schooling but also imparts additional knowledge and skills not typically covered in traditional education. More than half of our students report that Svitlo’s community helps them cope with anxiety. Half of those who took part in the survey say that they find Svitlo lessons entertaining and the time when they forget about the war. Offering education in English facilitates a smoother transition for students who have relocated abroad. Svitlo also collaborates with various companies and schools to offer our students additional opportunities, such as scholarships to British and American schools and participation in summer programs in the UK and the USA.

Education during wartime is essential. Our goal is to improve the well-being of Ukrainian children today, while also preparing them for their future by providing the skills and knowledge necessary to become global citizens. If you wish to support Svitlo in our endeavour to educate future leaders who will contribute to Ukraine's restoration after our victory, please follow the link to donate.

Reference list

Air-alarms.in.ua (2023). Статистика Повітряних Тривог В Україні - Вся Країна. [online] air-alarms.in.ua. Available at: https://air-alarms.in.ua/?from=2022-02-24&to=2023-12-26#statistic [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].

Minyailo, N. (2023). 10% Освітньої Інфраструктури України Постраждало Від Обстрілів Росії. Скільки Збитків Нанесла РФ Українській Освіті — Forbes.ua. [online] forbes.ua. Available at: https://forbes.ua/money/10-osvitnoi-infrastrukturi-ukraini-postrazhdali-vid-obstriliv-rosii-skilki-zbitkiv-nanesla-rf-ukrainskiy-osviti-20042023-13147 [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].

Save the Children (2022). One in Two Refugee Children from Ukraine Are Anxious and Worried about Their Future. [online] Save the Children International. Available at: https://www.savethechildren.net/news/one-two-refugee-children-ukraine-are-anxious-and-worried-about-their-future.

UNICEF (2022). Понад Половина Дітей України Вимушено Покинула Свої Домівки Після Місяця Війни – ЮНІСЕФ. [online] www.unicef.org. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/ukraine/press-releases/more-half-ukraines-children-displaced-after-one-month-war [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].

UNICEF (2023). Widespread Learning Loss among Ukraine’s children, as Students Enter Fourth Year of Disruption to Education – UNICEF. [online] www.unicef.org. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/ukraine/en/press-releases/widespread-learning-loss [Accessed 27 Dec. 2023].

World Vision Ukraine (2022). Looming Mental Health Crisis for 1.5 Million Ukrainian Children. [online] www.wvi.org. Available at: https://www.wvi.org/newsroom/ukraine/looming-mental-health-crisis-15-million-ukrainian-children.