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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Ukrainian schools are ready to welcome children back to the classrooms

“Education and schools are very important now. It's the future of our country,” says 15-year-old Daryna.

The young resident of Lozova, a town in Kharkiv oblast, last sat at her school desk on February 23, 2022, a day before the war began.

“24 February was frightening. We all thought we would go to school. But then we woke up to explosions; nobody understood anything. It was terrifying,” recalls Daryna. On that day, her life, along with the lives of countless Ukrainian children, changed forever.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine has already left a lasting impact on the entire country with civilian infrastructure severely destructed. As of the end of May 2023, more than 3,200 educational facilities in Ukraine have been damaged and another 261 completely destroyed.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children couldn’t go to school and were forced to engage in remote learning for over a year. Often, they lacked appropriate learning conditions while also facing constant risks to their well-being and health.

The EU is working with its humanitarian partners to ensure that war-affected schools are rehabilitated and repaired.

We visited our partners, the UN’s Office for Project Services (UNOPS), UNICEF, People in Need, and Finn Church Aid to discover how they restore access to education for Ukrainian children and ensure proper and secure learning conditions.

Daryna sitting at a school bench talking to an aid worker.
“With remote learning, you have to figure everything out on your own. There’s a teacher, of course, but it’s still not the same”, says Daryna. Last year, her school was damaged in a missile attack, leaving children without a place to learn.
© UNOPS, 2023 (photographer: Yurii Veres). All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
View of an empty classroom.
Today, it’s being restored, getting ready for pupils to return to their classrooms. With financial support from the EU, UNOPS has replaced nearly 400 m² of windows here.
© UNOPS, 2023 (photographer: Yurii Veres). All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
Photo of Philip in a dormroom.
Philip in Chuhuiv hopes to go back to his school soon; it now serves as an 'Invincibility centre' where locals can find shelter and support in case of a blackouts. Thanks to the EU and UNOPS, damaged windows are being restored for in-person learning.
© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Ivanna Bedei)
Anna, Anastasiia, and Maksym sitting on chairs.
Anna, Anastasiia, and Maksym from Lebedyn, Sumy oblast, are now used to spending days in basements. But constant air alerts do not deter them from wanting to go back to school on 1 September. “Learning in classrooms is easier and more interesting.”
© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Ivanna Bedei)
View of a classroom with new seats.
To provide children of Lebedyn with comfortable learning conditions, ‘People in Need’ NGO, with EU humanitarian funding, has already established digital education centres and provided classrooms with new furniture and equipment.
© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Ivanna Bedei)
View of a modular school building.
To create safe and comfortable learning spaces for as many Ukrainian children as possible, the EU and Finn Church Aid built this modular school in Mykhailo-Kotsiubynske near Chernihiv.
© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Ivanna Bedei)
View of a fully equiped classroom, in front an aid worker seen from the back.
With 6 fully equipped classrooms, this building will allow 240 children to return to face-to-face education, until the heavily damaged main school premises are restored.
© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Ivanna Bedei)
View of a schoolbuilding fully restored. Scaffolding still standing.
In March 2022, 300 residents were sheltering in this school in Ivanivka when it was hit by the Russian army. Luckily, no one was hurt in the attack. The building wasn’t completely destroyed and was later restored by the community.
© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Ivanna Bedei)
View of an empty classroom with school benches and drawings on the walls.
Today, this school and the Ivanivka community can return to a state of near normalcy. With EU humanitarian funding, UNICEF established an underground shelter with anti-shatter film to protect windows, and also equipped classrooms with furniture.
© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Ivanna Bedei)
View of a classroom, the walls filled with drawings and posters.
These works will enable 190 children from the Ivanivka community and nearby villages to return to their classes already in September.
© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Ivanna Bedei)
View of a large classroom created in a shelter. In the foreground an aid worker seen from the back.
Children’s safety continues to be a priority for the EU and partners. Comfortable shelters, such as this one in Kyinka established by UNICEF, will ensure that young Ukrainians can have safe access to education despite all the ongoing challenges.
© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Ivanna Bedei)
Photo of Ivanna Bedei

Story by Ivanna Bedei, Information and Communication Assistant in Kyiv, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. @ECHO_Europe

Publication date: 01/09/2023