Since the first day of the full-scale invasion, Russia has been waging a war against Ukrainian education, destroying the cornerstone of national security and the basis for independence and economic growth. From February 2022 to Dec. 31, 2023, the aggressor caused damage to 3,583 educational institutions and destroyed another 394, rendering them irreparable. In most cases, the enemy targets schools – 1,888 general secondary education institutions were damaged. These are just material damages, which cannot be compared to the educational losses and gaps.

For instance, at this very moment, while you’re reading this text, over 868,000 Ukrainian pupils are studying remotely because they cannot return to in-person learning. Unlike some countries that are dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic by implementing tutoring programs and resuming in-person education, our main focus is ensuring our children’s safety and well-being. According to the PISA-2022 research, the level of knowledge among 15-year-old Ukrainians has significantly decreased. These educational losses equate to a two-year gap in their knowledge of mathematics, reading, and sciences when compared to the level that children their age should have reached.


Based on the Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA), the total funding required for infrastructure reconstruction and improved in-person education from 2024 to 2033 is $13.9 billion. This includes $4.5 billion for rebuilding schools and an additional $4.1 billion for providing quality education services.

Despite the constant threat of enemy missiles, drones flying over Ukraine, and the focus on defense, education is still being restored. Schools are actively searching for ways to provide continuous learning, and the government is seeking funds to rebuild infrastructure. We’ve already done a lot for the security of our children over the last 2 years. It’s been urgent – yet vital things. The next step is enhancing the quality of the education process and solving demanding challenges to the frontline communities.


Working together for safe education

Last year, the government allocated Hr.1.5 billion ($37 million) to upgrade shelters in educational institutions. These funds were used to repair and build dozens of safe spaces in schools all over Ukraine. Local self-government bodies proactively participated, assessing budgets and searching for opportunities to provide extra funding.

For example, in the Chernihiv region, which shares a border with the Republic of Belarus and Russia, the local authorities constructed a shelter spanning 300 square meters in only a few months. It is situated at the Ripky Lyceum and can accommodate up to 800 people. It’s a great example of how regions bring back in-person education, even when it seems impossible.

In the Kharkiv region, which borders Russia, Ukraine is building the world’s first underground school. It is a tough, yet essential task. The school is built to the highest safety standards, has 20 classrooms, and is designed to accommodate 900 students in two shifts. Moreover, the school will serve as a shelter for nearby kindergartens, offices, and other institutions.


Overall, in 2023, the percentage of educational institutions with shelters rose from 68 to 80 percent. This improvement was made possible also thanks to the efforts of development partners, international organizations, and investors, who played a crucial role in enhancing the quality of Ukrainian education and safety for our children.

For instance, UNICEF, Save the Children, the Red Cross, and other international organizations are actively participating in reconstructing bomb shelters and hideouts at educational institutions in Mykolaiv. We are teaming up to finish the restoration of Gymnasium No. 20, which was damaged by Russian attacks in the spring of 2022, and also to repair a shelter that can accommodate 800 people.

We are incredibly grateful for the support and unity of the European Commission, which allocates 15 million for the development of school bomb shelters in Ukraine. These spaces will serve a dual function as both a refuge and a fully equipped educational area.

School shelters – essential for in-person education

The war is ongoing, as well as repairs and construction of school shelters. The government has allocated Hr.2.5 billion ($61 million) for school shelters and implemented a new distribution mechanism for subventions.


This year – frontline regions became the top priority for the state funding of shelters. Children there cannot attend school in-person due to a lack of shelter in these areas. To provide more than 400,000 children with safe quality education the government has allocated subventions for eight regions close to the frontline or border with Russia and Belarus.

The new rules for allocating funds were developed with a focus on accountability and accessibility. Hence, all requests for state funding were exclusively submitted through the DREAM ecosystem (Digital Restoration Ecosystem for Accountable Management), as it is an efficient tool that eliminates the possibility of corruption and promotes transparency in the process.

Via this system, people from all over the world can easily track the progress of projects, specifically building shelters in schools, and monitor the use of funds. With just a few clicks, you can access up-to-date and verified information from the project's initial entry into the system until the shelter is completed and ready for use.

We have been supporting communities and will continue to do this through support-group chats as well as online workshops or in-person meetings. Moreover, we’ve collected all vital information on schools’ shelters on the online platform “My Fortress”.

Over 2,500 representatives from various communities and regional administrations have been instructed on using DREAM during March-April. This effort has resulted in more than 100 projects for constructing shelters in educational institutions being registered in the system. After that, the Ministry of Education and Science’s commission finalized 57 projects to receive funding.


We have simple decisions implemented – critical needs are left to provide

Creating safe spaces in schools is a top priority of the “School Offline” mega-complex initiative, which aims to ensure that as many children as possible have access to high-quality education by the end of 2024. Along with building and repairing shelters, we are also exploring the possibility of implementing intense camp training in the form of field camps. This would pertain to schools in areas where offline learning is not feasible despite having shelters in place.

Now, the main task of the Ministry is schools in the frontline areas. Realizing all the threats, we are working to develop a comprehensive assessment of the needs of schools in these communities. By collecting data through interaction with the regions and processing it using Palantir technology, we want to meet the needs of the communities as efficiently as possible.

These include the need for shelters, buses to transport children to safer areas, and devices for quality distance learning. In the frontline areas, there is a pressing need for 82,000 devices for students and 25,000 for teachers this year.


It is now vital for us to focus all efforts, including those of our partners, on meeting these data-driven and complex needs in frontline areas.

The actual need for providing shelters in schools in eight frontline and border regions amounts to Hr.17 billion ($197 million). This Hr.17 billion already includes a state subsidy of Hr.2.5 billion ($61 million). Our goal for this year is to secure funding for all projects with project cost estimates, which amounts to an additional Hr.6.75 billion ($166 million).

When addressing the mechanism of project support by donors, it’s crucial that donors initially contact the Ministry of Education and Science team of Ukraine. Subsequently, they can explore the DREAM platform to acquaint themselves with all projects in need of funding. The next step entails selecting a project that aligns with the donor’s key indicators and goals, then providing support to ensure its realization.

The DREAM platform allows potential donors, investors, and development partners to easily access and contribute funding, ensuring transparency, high quality, and convenience through its data-driven approach. When discussing overcoming educational losses and promoting a secure learning environment for children, we are guided by the principle of “build back better.” We have a unique chance, with global support, to make courageous choices in creating a new education system – one that is high-quality, innovative, secure, and European.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post. 

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