Ukrainian children return to learning amid air strikes
June 07, 2024 by UNICEF Ukraine |
3 minutes read

Thanks to a program funded by GPE, children in the Kharkivska region in Ukraine are attending in-person classes and catching up on their studies for the first time in four years.

This story was originally published on UNICEF's website.

11-year-old Tymofii has not been to school in four years, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. When he tries to remember what it was like, he shrugs – the boy can no longer remember.

Now, thanks to a Digital Learning Center (DLC) run by the SpivDiya charitable foundation in his hometown of Bohodukhiv, he is once again able to catch up on his studies.

"This year, I've improved, because I have the opportunity to come here and have teachers to help me with subjects I don't understand.”
Student, Grade 6

The DLC, run with the help of funding from GPE and support from UNICEF, is a safe space where children can catch up on their school studies and log onto online lessons together. It is one of 13 DLC’s to have opened their doors to children across Ukraine.

As a result of the security situation in Bohodukhiv, in the Kharkivska region, where air raids and shelling are regular occurrences, schools have been closed for four years. Since then, many children have struggled to study remotely, amid power outages and shelling attacks.

11-year-old Tymofii with his classmates during a lesson. Credit: Spivdiia/UNICEF
11-year-old Tymofii with his classmates during a lesson.

Viktoriia, Tymofii’s mother, worried when her son started to fall behind in his studies.

"There were new teachers, new subjects,” she says. “My son had to adapt to the situation during blackouts, when the air raid siren went off, and he had to work through the material on his own. It was tough.”

During his first face-to-face maths lesson with teacher Olha, Tymofii was confused about fractions and equations. The DLC entrance test revealed significant gaps in his knowledge.

"He came to us with a big need, and it was through our interactions and subsequent lessons that we identified his misunderstandings and areas requiring attention,” says Olha. “This level would have been unachievable online. After conducting what we call an 'exit test' [a measure of knowledge acquired over a period — editor's note], we could see that Tymofii's understanding of mathematics had significantly improved.”

Teenagers during their studies at the digital educational center in Bogodukhiv. Credit: Spivdiia/UNICEF
Teenagers during their studies at the digital educational center in Bogodukhiv.

Since the DLC opened in Bohodukhiv five months ago, Tymofii has been studying almost every day. Together with his peers, he enjoys catching up on his maths and Ukrainian language studies.

Although it is challenging to cover everything he has missed, he is making great progress, and communication with his peers has played a crucial role.

Tenth-grader Mariia has also reaped the benefits of increased socialization. Although she is naturally active and inquisitive, being compelled to study from home from grades 7 to 10 left her feeling isolated, which not only diminished her motivation to engage with new school subjects but also led to a gradual loss of knowledge.

"I didn't even always have the opportunity to connect to online lessons because of attacks and power cuts. This year, thanks to the learning center, I was able to join a group of students and study offline. I feel very calm here.”

Victoriia, who is 13, has a similar story. She is currently in the 8th grade and, until she arrived at the DLC, all of her secondary schooling had taken place online.

"We have already completed the program over the past year, and I have a better understanding of it,” she says. “I come here six times a week for two maths classes, two Ukrainian language classes and two psychological support classes.”

Thanks to funding from the GPE, 7,425 students in the Kharkivska region have already been able to catch up on their education.

Most of the classes are held in cities where schools operate only in an online format, giving children a crucial chance to take part in face-to-face education.

Currently, these lessons are run in the Volynska, Dnipropetrovsk, Zhytomyrska, Zakarpatska, Kirovohradska, Kyivska, Lvivska, Poltavska, Odeska, Mykolaivska, Sumska, Kharkivska, Khmelnytska, Cherkaska, Chernivetska and Chernihivska regions.

So far, a total of 17,754 children have been able to catch up on their education thanks to the project.

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