160 Central Park South, 1115 New York, NY 10019

+1 800 123 456 789


Resilience and Renewal: How NGOs are Transforming Education in Ukraine

On a chilly winter day, the war-torn landscape of Ukraine is punctuated by a surprising sound: the cheerful chattering of children. Inside a converted bomb shelter, beneath a school in Chernihiv, they gather around laptops, their eager eyes glued to the screens as their teachers guide them through their lessons. A testament to human resilience and adaptability, these makeshift classrooms bear witness to the herculean efforts of international NGOs, bolstering Ukraine’s education system amid crisis.

When Russia’s invasion thrust Ukraine into a maelstrom of disruption and trauma, it didn’t just leave physical scars across the country. It threatened to irrevocably damage the education of an entire generation. Around 5 million children had their schooling disrupted, as per UNICEF estimates. The frequent air raids, blackouts, internet service disruptions, and lack of heating forced schools to adapt or perish.

Yet, Ukraine chose to adapt. Schools transformed bomb shelters into classrooms, while students alternated between remote and in-person classes, depending on the availability of electricity. The Ukrainian education ministry reported that, of Ukraine’s approximately 13,000 operational schools, 1.1 million students attended class in person as of January’s end, while over 2.7 million children learned online or through a combination of online and in-person teaching.

Amid this chaos, international NGOs emerged as saviors, rising to the colossal challenge of sustaining education in Ukraine. Spearheading initiatives like savED’s digital learning centers and the International Research & Exchanges Board’s mobile school project, these organizations have been instrumental in preserving normalcy for Ukrainian children.

The EU has committed a whopping 100 million euros to restore Ukraine’s educational infrastructure. Of this, 34 million euros of humanitarian aid is directed through UN agencies to repair minor to moderate damage in schools and provide equipment for classrooms and shelters. An additional 66 million euros will be injected directly into the Ukrainian state budget.

Notable contributions have come from UNICEF, UNESCO, Google, and Save the Children, who have supplied technical learning aids, such as laptops and software for distance education, in large numbers. UNESCO and Google alone have provided a staggering 50,000 laptops for teachers.

Furthermore, the psychological wellbeing of students and teachers, which often tends to be overlooked, has been addressed by several organizations. Initiatives have focused on providing psychological support to students while equipping teachers with the necessary skills to manage the children’s psycho-emotional state during wartime.

Despite the daunting challenges, there remains a palpable spirit of determination among Ukraine’s educators. Teachers Yuliia Masliana and Kateryna Bokach, both working in a shelter-turned-classroom in Chernihiv, face frequent disruptions to their teaching schedules due to sirens and air raids. Yet, they press on, ensuring their students feel safe and continue to learn:

*Via Bokach, Masliana said one of the biggest challenges is helping students feel they are in a safe place.

*Some days, there are no sirens. Others, students and teachers will have to move to shelters three or four times.

*”Sometimes it is difficult to breathe because there are a lot of children and teachers, and there is a lot of noise,” Bokach said. “They are tired after the shelters, and I also am tired because we can sit in the shelter for one or two hours.”

The monumental efforts of these organizations and individuals illustrate a crucial truth: education cannot wait, even in times of war. Through creative solutions and relentless dedication, they are preserving the future of a generation.

It’s inspiring to note that the most valuable resource in these trying times isn’t necessarily the technical learning aids or the funding – as vital as they are – but the unwavering spirit of the teachers, students, and aid workers determined to keep the light of education burning in the face of adversity.

As we look forward, it’s clear that the road to recovery is long, but with continued support and resilience, Ukraine’s education system will endure and hopefully flourish. For, in the words of UNICEF’s Afshan Khan, “There is no pause button. It is not an option to simply postpone children’s education.”

You see, the UNICEF representatives. I met with them. They always have to fill out a form about the damage to the institution. They come, they take a look, they take pictures, and we send them the pictures. Then they write it down and offer us shelters. I say: we already have a shelter, the founder has allocated funds for us, and it’s already done. Then they said: “Let’s see, maybe the offices are damaged, what do you think?” We agreed on the computer science classroom. Principal, Kyiv oblast

The Phoenix of Education: Rising from the Ashes in Ukraine

Amid the landscape of war-torn Ukraine, the rising sun paints a portrait of resilience and unyielding spirit. From the rubble of shattered infrastructure, a tale of rebirth unfurls. At the heart of this narrative is Ukraine’s education system. Emerging from the aftermath of a ruthless invasion, it’s a story of relentless progress and unbowed determination, a testament to the nation’s refusal to let its future generations bear the brunt of a conflict not of their making.

War’s wreckage has been felt deeply across the nation, with educational institutions witnessing unimaginable destruction. To gauge the scale of devastation, the Ministry for Communities and Territories Development issued an order on June 24, 2022, calling for the creation of a system to assess the damage. Despite the glaring need, this critical tool remained elusive, buried in bureaucratic uncertainties.

The proposed system aimed to offer quantifiable data on damaged residential and public buildings, including schools. The extent of destruction was to be segmented into categories – less than 20%, 20-40%, and more than 40%. However, a thick veil of ambiguity surrounds the existence of such a system and the status of data collection on affected schools.

In the Chernihiv oblast, a region that bore the brunt of the conflict, the educational sector’s losses were projected to exceed an astronomical 14 billion UAH (approximately 500 million USD). This staggering figure only scratches the surface as it accounts for just the structural damage, sidestepping the substantial cost of lost educational materials like furniture, equipment, and teaching supplies.

Amid these daunting challenges, Ukrainians rose to the occasion, their resolve unwavering. With the future of their children at stake, they embarked on an arduous journey of reconstruction. The initial phase centered on repairing slightly damaged schools and salvaging the more severely affected ones. In Chernihiv oblast, the fruits of this labor were evident with 59% of damaged schools, a total of 41 institutions, restored.

Similarly, in the Kyiv oblast, restoration efforts bore significant results. A remarkable 71% of damaged schools, totaling 87 institutions, sprung back to life, reclaiming their place in the nation’s educational landscape. Ten hromadas even reported complete restoration of all their affected schools.

In contrast, the Kharkiv oblast’s recovery narrative was marred with setbacks, slowed by the region’s later de-occupation, persisting hostilities, and a more substantial scale of destruction. Out of 296 schools affected, only 13 could muster repairs.

Despite these odds, the spirit of Ukraine remained indefatigable. The objective, as school repairs gained momentum in Chernihiv and Kyiv, was unambiguous: the swift return to conventional classroom education.

The numbers, while stark, tell a story that transcends the narrative of destruction. They chronicle the undying resolve of Ukrainians who, against a backdrop of loss tallying in billions, repaired hundreds of schools. The repair of 18 out of 27 affected schools in the Chernihiv hromada, and the full restoration of schools in Borodianka and Bucha hromadas are testimony to this relentless quest for normalcy.

These numbers don’t just document destruction and restoration; they are emblematic of Ukraine’s indomitable spirit. As Ukrainians salvage and rebuild their education system, they are crafting a testament of faith in the power of education and the resilience of the human spirit. Amid the ruins of a cruel past, Ukraine is conjuring a story of hope and promise, one brick, one school, one number at a time.

For example, in Ivanivka, there was a school for 40 students. They really didn’t want to close it, because parents didn’t want to take a small child far away, even by bus if there was one… They still didn’t want to. And when it is completely destroyed, to the ground, no one will actually repair it. Unfortunately, this is true. So the issue of optimising the network will be resolved so that these children can go to school, well… let’s say, guaranteeing some kind of bus so that they can go to school without any problems. And there they will go to schools in the territorial centre. Representative of the regional education department, Kharkiv oblast

Education in the Crosshairs: Ukraine’s Struggle Amid Conflict

KYIV, Ukraine — In a country where 60% of schools are in villages yet only a mere 28% of students attend them, the Ukrainian education system has long grappled with the realities of providing quality education in the face of resource inequality. The onset of the war in 2014 and the subsequent Covid-19 pandemic have only heightened these challenges, casting an uncertain future on Ukraine’s over 4 million students and their teachers.

As per the Ukrainian constitution, the state guarantees access to complete general secondary education. Post basic secondary education, which covers nine years of study, there are three avenues of advancement: traditional schooling, vocational training, or pre-professional instruction. At the onset of the 2021 academic year, approximately 14,000 general secondary institutions had opened their doors to young learners across the nation.

To combat the stark rural-urban divide, Ukraine launched an initiative in 2017, called hub schools. Under this program, children from surrounding villages are transported by bus to central education facilities, thus improving their access to better-equipped educational environments. As of June 2022, these hub schools accounted for about 9% of all schools in the country.

Yet, these efforts have been hampered by a decrease in the education subvention – funds from the state budget that are allocated to local communities to finance schools and pay teachers. As Ukraine battles the effects of a full-scale war, its 2023 educational subvention has been reduced by 20% from the previous year to 87.5 billion UAH.

In 2017, the country had embarked on an ambitious school reform program, named the New Ukrainian School, aimed at modernizing education. The plan called for a child-centred learning approach, modernizing school infrastructure, and distributing educational responsibilities in favour of local communities. However, the full-scale invasion and Covid-19 have severely hampered the progress of this reform.

Rural students are already at a disadvantage, lagging behind their urban counterparts by 2.5 years, according to the 2018 PISA assessment. The advent of the pandemic and the transition to remote learning has likely exacerbated this divide, even though formal studies in Ukraine have yet to confirm this.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began in 2014, escalated significantly in February 2022, disrupting life and education across the country. Large areas of the country, including Kyiv, Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, and Mykolaiv, have been affected by the conflict.

Despite the disruptions, Ukraine has managed to de-occupy parts of its territory. As of June, 20% of Ukraine’s territory, or 125,000 square meters, remained under occupation. As of late 2022, the Ukrainian Ministry of Reintegration included 329 local communities in the list of areas under temporary occupation or in the combat zone.

On top of this, missile attacks and artillery shelling, combined with the targeting of critical infrastructure, have resulted in frequent power outages, interrupting mobile and internet communications, central heating, and water supply — all critical to sustaining distance learning.

Despite the many hardships, the Ukrainian spirit remains undeterred, as the country pushes forward with its educational reforms amid the dual threats of war and pandemic. It’s a test of national resolve, the outcome of which will shape the future of Ukraine’s young generations.

The team united and decided, thanks to the village chairman, who helped us and found funding opportunities, to seek out local entrepreneurs and look for anyone who could help. We approached everyone with our requests. Because, you know, even to plaster something, to make some redecoration, you need to have some money or material. So we were provided with it, and people brought us satengypsum and paint. At that time, the government did not help us with any money or anything. We worked on our own. In the summer, all summer long, even though we were supposed to be on vacation. When we had the windows replaced in September, they had been ordered by the Department of Education, and we installed all 158 windows ourselves. They were brought to us, the military helped us unload them and bring them in. And then parents and male residents of the village who could do something about it came to us. And on any day, whether it was a weekend, a working day, or in the evening, they came and helped install these windows. -Principal, Kyiv oblast