Ukraine 2022: Back to School
For many children around the globe September means “Back to School” and in Ukraine this is still the case, even while facing challenges due to the ongoing conflict.
ORT Ukraine has been educating students at ORT schools and affiliated schools in six cities and towns across the country. Of the five ORT schools, two in Kyiv and one in Chernivtsi re-opened for students to attend in-person this month. Our schools in Zaporizhzhia and Odesa remain physically closed due to the security concerns in both cities and the absence of basements that could serve as bomb shelters in the school buildings.
Our teachers and administrators both in Ukraine and from abroad, remain committed to continuing to educate students and to assisting their families. They have shown dedication and professionalism in impossible circumstances to forge ahead with classes.
As seen in news reports, huge uncertainty remains in the country and complicates the educational arrangements ORT Ukraine is able to put into effect.
Our latest information shows that of the more than 3,100 full-time ORT Ukraine students, around 50 per cent are now learning online, mostly in their home cities. But many of our students are taking online classes while displaced within the country, and of the thousands learning online, at least one-quarter are logging in from outside Ukraine. Trying to deliver lessons and run the school day in the midst of the ongoing conflict is hugely complex. Many students are in their original ORT schools, while others are now attending different ORT schools within and outside Ukraine.
Around 1,175 students are back in their classrooms in person. With almost all schools facing decreased numbers of students and teachers, many classes and grades have merged to increase efficiency in the schools. To beat the shortages, some teachers are doubling-up in their efforts – teaching in-person in the mornings and then giving the same lessons again online in the afternoons.
A few hundred are being educated at home, where their parents are delivering the curriculum and students will be able to take their exams and graduate as usual.
In some cases, ORT children who have left Ukraine but are studying at ORT schools or affiliates in other countries, such as Spain and Italy, attend regular in person classes in the morning and then continue learning online with their original teachers and peers from Ukraine in the afternoon.
These numbers change daily, and sadly the whereabouts of hundreds of ORT families remain unknown.
ORT has provided more than $1.5m of aid during the conflict, but the most pressing needs for our teachers, students and their families have changed over the course of recent weeks.
Our current priorities are:
- Food aid
- Financial support for families and teachers
- Safe transport for students
- Ongoing security needs
Since students returned to school it has become clear that there is an urgent need to provide food assistance for students. Food shortages have become commonplace due to the halting of production, transportation difficulties and the closure of businesses across the country. We are finding that 70 percent of our children require up to two meals per day. At schools with in-person learning we estimate up to 2,000 meals are needed every day, which requires an additional $500,000 in support to provide meals for the rest of this academic year.
Thanks to the financial assistance of ORT and our leading donor in the region, staff have started first aid training and taken part in sessions focussing on how to respond to emergencies. Sadly, such emergency situations can include rocket attacks and suspicious packages.
In Kyiv and Chernivtsi, bomb shelters under the schools have been refurbished and also now include evacuation equipment and emergency response kits with items such as fire extinguishers and gas masks.
The next stage involves creating ‘sleeping spaces’ in the shelters, with blankets, sleeping bags, heaters, drinking water supplies and other essentials. Our intention is also to equip every classroom with first aid kits and emergency supplies in case students are stuck in classrooms during an attack.
Teachers in Odesa and Zaporizhzhia have received face-to-face first aid training, with colleagues in Chernivtsi, the Kyiv schools and Bila Tserkva receiving emergency response training. They will soon receive first aid training. Schools have also received online lessons about the danger posed by mines. We continue to provide direct financial assistance to ORT families who have been most seriously affected by the collapse of Ukraine’s economy. Teachers are also continuing to receive salary assistance from ORT. The costs of providing ongoing security at the schools, and safe transport across cities for our students, continue to rise.
Thousands of people require our ongoing support – both to overcome the current challenges, and to prepare for the inevitable long-term difficulties Ukraine faces. Our pledge is to do everything possible to support our students, their families, and our schools and programs for as long as necessary.
To find out more about how ORT has helped our Ukrainian students, teachers and staff since the conflict began, click here to read the report.