Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, every sphere in our country has undergone drastic changes, including education. Currently, a large number of school-age children are in the temporarily occupied territories, and another 500,000 Ukrainian students are abroad.
As of January 2023, more than 3,127 objects, including 1,489 schools, 885 kindergartens, and 517 buildings of higher education institutions, were damaged, destroyed, or captured in Ukraine as a result of Russian aggression. As of January 24, there are 12,926 general secondary education institutions in Ukraine. In particular, in 3,955 schools, children study face-to-face, in 4,363 – remotely, and in 4,608 – in a mixed form.
Ukrainian education has undergone many transformations since February 24, 2022: schoolchildren study in breaks between air raids and in bomb shelters, teachers in the occupied territories are threatened and forced to teach in Russian, and children abroad study by combining Ukrainian and foreign programs. Now, in the conditions of the war and the economic recession caused by it, both reconstruction and the construction of educational institutions are very expensive and long-term projects. At the same time, the education of Ukrainian children must continue, despite the full-scale war and destruction.
In addition, the Russian Federation’s deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure create new threats to children’s lives, health, and the educational process. One of the most important directions of state policy in the field of education remains the issue of arranging reliable bomb shelters and shelters in educational institutions. Whether there is a shelter, how it is arranged and whether it meets the requirements is determined by a special commission. The MES initiated the creation of the Concept of a safe educational institution, the development of which is being worked on by an interagency group that analyzes the security situation in schools, studies international experience with the aim of adapting it to Ukrainian realities. The data indicate that as of September 2, 2022, more than 24,700 educational institutions were inspected (94% of the total number). Of these, 14,832 institutions organize shelter. It is worth reminding that back in 2019, our state joined the Safe Schools Declaration, which was announced at an international conference in Oslo. It includes a number of obligations to prevent and respond to attacks and the use of educational institutions for military purposes during armed conflict.
Since 2014, the state has continued to develop and improve the legislative framework for providing targeted assistance. In particular, according to the Law of Ukraine “On Social and Legal Protection of Servicemen and Members of Their Families”, children of military personnel who have the status of a participant in hostilities are granted places in general education and pre-school educational institutions based on the place of residence of their families. On May 14, 2015, the VRU adopted a law on state support for combatants and their children.
Currently, responding to the new challenges of a full-scale war, the VRU has initiated a number of draft laws on improving the educational process during a full-scale war. In particular, on June 19, 2022, the parliament adopted the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine in the Field of Education Regarding the Regulation of Certain Issues of Educational Activity in Martial Law”. This law provides for changes, as well as the suspension of certain provisions in the educational spheres, which are connected with the introduction of martial law. This directly involves changes regarding the duration of the academic year, its start and/or end date. The law may also provide for changes to legislation that regulates issues related to the rights of educational activities under martial law.
On January 12, 2023, the draft Law of Ukraine “On Adult Education” was also adopted in the first reading. This draft law is European integration and provides opportunities for the personal and professional development of a person, his social activity, which ensures the satisfaction of various social and economic needs at the level of the community, region and state. It is important to understand that in the conditions of a full-scale war, when thousands of people in Ukraine have lost their jobs, and there are also a large number of displaced persons, the possibility of retraining is extremely necessary in order for Ukrainians to be able to work and provide for themselves and their families.
Already in February of this year, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the draft Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the State Final Attestation and Admission Campaign of 2023”. The legality of this decision is related to the continuation of the legal regime of martial law. According to it, students who complete their full general secondary education in the 2022/2023 academic year will be exempted from taking the state final certification. Admission to institutions of professional pre-higher and higher education for studies to obtain a certain degree of education, which was carried out in 2022 in a special order, will be organized according to these special orders in 2023 as well. That is, like last year, the entrance test for those wishing to obtain a higher education will be conducted in the NMT format, which will contain tasks from three subjects. Two compulsory subjects: Ukrainian language and mathematics. The entrant can choose one subject: history of Ukraine, foreign language, biology, physics or chemistry.
Relocation of educational institutions
For a large part of Ukrainian universities, the question of relocating the universities themselves and, accordingly, students to safer regions has become acute. These are such regions as Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Volyn and Rivne. There is also a need for an integration strategy and transfer procedures for students whose universities will not be able to resume studies in the near future. In some universities, teachers who have been evacuated from war zones are already being invited to join the educational process. The evacuation of universities is not a new practice for our country, since after 2014, some universities in Donetsk, Luhansk regions and Crimea were moved to safer cities within these regions or to other regions. Currently, there is an important need to track the issue of relocation of educational institutions to other regions, and it is also necessary to develop a simplified procedure and conditions for their internal relocation.
An important aspect of Ukrainian education in the conditions of a full-scale war is international aid. In March 2022, the World Bank allocated 100 million hryvnias, which will make it possible to pay academic and social scholarships to students. In particular, the EU allocated 100 million euros for the restoration of Ukrainian schools. The European Union promised another 14 million euros for the purchase of school buses. In addition, it is known that the European Commission allocated 100 million euros for shelters in schools.
so, the issue of rebuilding Ukrainian schools is now one of the most important and urgent problems. The restoration of schools is one of the priorities that were voiced, in particular, at the International Conference on Restoration of Ukraine in Lugano. It is also necessary to develop learning models adapted to modern realities and places where children and teachers stay. That is why a specific strategy for the reconstruction of Ukrainian schools should be implemented, which will involve the establishment of strong ties with international donors and partner states, as well as attracting help from businesses and systematic communication about the reconstruction of educational institutions at the international level. Equally important is cooperation with local organizations and independent experts to ensure adapted and accessible educational opportunities for children directly on the ground. In addition, the issue of reliable social and legal protection of participants in the educational process should be implemented in the context of legislative decisions of the government. Because in order to reduce the negative effects of war on children’s education, efforts are needed to ensure safety and stability in the education system, as well as access to resources and support for Ukrainian children and their families.
Author: Hryhoriy MamkaPeople’s Deputy of Ukraine, Deputy Chairman of the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Law Enforcement, Doctor of Law.