Catch-up lessons lend Ukrainian students a lifeline

UNICEF, with support from GPE and other partners, is offering catch-up lessons to primary school students impacted by the war in Ukraine.

September 18, 2023 by GPE Secretariat
2 minutes read
Credit: UNICEF/KATE0927

This blog was originally published by UNICEF.

UNICEF and its partners are conducting face-to-face lessons for primary school students in Ukraine to help them catch up on what they have missed due to the ongoing war.

Ten-year-old Polina from Zaporizhzhia has already attended three of the classes. In September, she will enter the fifth grade, so catching up on math, English and Ukrainian with her peers every week is invaluable.

There are 10 to 15 children in every class. Each lesson lasts up to two hours.

Polina (10), along with her peers and teacher Hanna, performs exercises. Credit: UNICEF
Polina (10), along with her peers and teacher Hanna, performs exercises.

“When, after a year of online learning, children find themselves in a real classroom with a real desk, blackboard and, most importantly, a teacher and peers, it's like a breath of fresh air for them, which they have been missing all this time.”

Hanna Vasko, primary school teacher

“I am very pleased that the teachers pay a lot of attention to math in the classroom,” says Olena, Polina's mother. “Before the last school year, I took Polina to a tutor to catch up on this subject, but now there is no need for that. The teachers explain everything in an accessible and interesting way.”

Olena says that math and the Ukrainian language are their top priorities, since these are the mandatory subjects for the External Independent Evaluation, which Polina and her classmates will need to take to enter a university.

“They also need to return to the classroom for socialization, communication and meeting new friends,” says Olena.


Primary school teacher Hanna Vasko conducts an interactive lesson for children in a school bomb shelter during an air alarm.

Credit: UNICEF/KATE0623

Students participate during a catch-up lesson taking place in a bomb shelter.

Credit: UNICEF/KATE0749
Hanna Vasko, primary school teacher. Credit : UNICEF

Hanna Vasko, primary school teacher.

Credit: UNICEF/KATE0963

Polina (10), along with her peers and teacher Hanna, performs exercises.

Credit: UNICEF/KATE0764

The lesson is more like a training session rather than a traditional school lesson, with interesting handouts, quests and construction sets.

Credit: UNICEF/KATE0864

The goal is not only to catch up with the school curriculum, but also to gently prepare children for the return to face-to-face learning in September.

Credit: UNICEF
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The impact of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine only compounds years of lost learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since February 2022, more than 3,500 educational institutions in Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed.

As of May 2023, only one-third of schools across the country were able to provide full-time education for children, in part due to a lack of safe shelters in educational buildings. As a result, children have suffered significant losses in their education.

UNICEF, together with partners from the Ukrainian Educational Platform Foundation, is conducting catch-up classes for 3,000 primary school students in the Zaporizka, Khersonska, Kharkivska and Dnipropetrovska regions, including the areas most affected by the hostilities.

The program is being implemented with the support of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to fill gaps in reading, writing and arithmetic skills, as well as to provide children with psychosocial support.

In the 2023/2024 school year, UNICEF plans to organize catch-up classes for more than 300,000 children.

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