29th Sep 2023

New school year sees 6.7m Ukraine children unable to learn

  • More than 1,300 schools have been destroyed in Ukraine since the start of the war (Photo: UNICEF)
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Ongoing attacks and low enrolment rates have left 6.7 million Ukrainian children (aged 3-18) unable to learn, UNICEF has warned.

For the fourth consecutive school year, following the disruption caused by the Covid epidemic, the educational future of Ukrainian children is uncertain.

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One of the reasons is the destruction of schools. More than 1,300 have been destroyed in Ukraine since the start of the war in February 2022.

"Inside Ukraine, attacks on schools have continued unabated, leaving children deeply distressed and without safe spaces to learn," Regina De Dominicis, the UN children's fund UNICEF's regional director for Europe and Central Asia, said.

Such attacks have had an impact on children's learning and the way they are taught.

According to recent surveys,, teachers have reported that their pupils' knowledge of Ukrainian, mathematics and foreign languages has deteriorated dramatically.

Moreover, only a third of children in primary and secondary education receive a full face-to-face education. Another third learn in a hybrid way, and the last third learn entirely online. UNICEF warns this solution should only be short-term.

The situation is even more critical in frontline regions, where three-quarters of parents say they do not send their children to preschool.

It will not be an easy start to the school year for refugee children either. In the seven main refugee host countries, more than half of children of pre-primary and secondary school age are not enrolled in the national education system.

Enrolment rates are low. Reasons for this include language difficulties, difficult access to education systems, lack of teachers or frequent cross-border movements.

Some refugee children have even dropped out of school altogether, although the impact is not only educational.

In times of war, going to school offers children a sense of routine and security, a space where they can get support from teachers and make friends. It is also a way for them to access vaccinations, adequate food or mental health support.

"Not only has this left Ukraine's children struggling to progress in their education, but they are also struggling to retain what they learnt when their schools were fully functioning," said De Dominicis on her return from Ukraine.


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