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As second academic year begins in wartime Ukraine, millions unable to go back to school full time

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk September 1, 2023 3:42 PM 2 min read
First-graders go to school in Kyiv on Sept. 1, 2023. (Photo by Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Amid Russia's ongoing war, around 340,000 children in the country entered first grade on Sep. 1, the first official year of school for children in Ukraine, Deputy Education Minister Andrii Vitrenko said on Aug. 31.

The figure is a 4.6% increase from 2022 when 325,000 children started school. Ukraine begins the new school year on Sep. 1, known as Knowledge Day.

This is the second year students are starting school the school year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, which has destroyed or damaged thousands of schools and prevented over two million students from attending school as normal.

Only a third of children in Ukraine go to school in-person, according to UNICEF, citing the latest school enrollment data. Continued Russian attacks mean that a third learn fully online, and another third learn in a hybrid approach.

Educational institutions in areas that are close to hostilities remain shut as schools are often a target for Russian forces.

In August, school buildings were hit in strikes on Kherson, Khmelnytskyi, and Kharkiv oblasts.

On Aug. 23, a Russian attack drone struck a school in Romny, Sumy Oblast, killing four people and injuring four others.

The bodies of the school principal, deputy principal, secretary, and librarian were retrieved from under the rubble. They were in the building to prepare for the start of the school year.

The government has allocated Hr 1.5 billion (about $40 million) to provide bomb shelters in schools. Currently, 76% of educational institutions have access to them.

Kyiv has shelters in 417 out of its 420 schools, with most educational institutions in the capital opting for in-person teaching this year, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Sep. 1.

According to the city council, 240,000 children will attend school in Kyiv in-person, a huge increase from 94,000 in September 2022. At that time, 26% of Kyiv's students were either abroad or living in other regions of Ukraine.

In Kyiv, 25,000 children will enter school on Sep. 1, a number close to pre-war levels, officials said.

Ukrainian schoolchildren to take mine safety courses
Ukraine’s Education Ministry is developing a course in cooperation with UNICEF on mine safety for Ukrainian schoolchildren, one that will become a mandatory part of the curriculum, the ministry announced on Aug. 14.
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