Beyond the toll of civilian casualties and refugees produced by Russia’s war in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of children have lost access to schooling. Given that education is a powerful force for mitigating the damage from such crises, Europeans must do more to support Ukraine’s education sector.
ATHENS – The war in Ukraine has brought harrowing images to Europe. Countless lives and livelihoods have been lost. More than four million Ukrainians have fled, and over six million more are internally displaced. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees warns that this is “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”
Daily life for all Ukrainians is now marked by an absence of safe shelter and basic goods. But the situation is even worse for Ukraine’s 10.7 million children and young people. Their education has been severely disrupted, which could have long-term ramifications for them and their country. According to a recent count, the Russian invasion has already left more than 350,000 Ukrainian children with no access to education, and several million more are expected to be affected. The compounding effects of the war and the pandemic on education risk leaving an entire generation of Ukrainian students with severe learning gaps.
When lives are at stake, schooling might seem like a luxury. But the importance of uninterrupted learning cannot be emphasized enough. Education is a fundamental right that must be guaranteed under all circumstances. It is also essential for children’s emotional and mental well-being – especially during times of crisis, as the pandemic has shown. The longer a student remains without access to education, the greater the negative effects on basic competencies, and the higher the likelihood that he or she will never finish school.
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