Keeping Children Learning While Living Through a War

by Teach For Ukraine
Photo: Teach For Ukraine

Ensuring that kids keep learning is the strategy Teach For Ukraine adopted from the first day of the large-scale war. Since the 24th of February, our team, especially our fellows, have worked to help kids in Ukraine continue receiving an education and the social-emotional support they need during this most challenging time. They kept teaching online and offline over 5000 students and have been of great support to them. We invite you to use your imagination to understand what living through a war has been like for Ukraine's children. 

Imagine you are a student in Ukraine. Your school is either destroyed or damaged. First, COVID forced your school to close temporarily, and for the last six months, you haven't studied at all because of the war. You are not sure where your classmates are. You are not sure where your teachers are. And, most of all, you are not sure what kind of future you will have without completing your education. 

Many children lost access to education when the large-scale war started at the end of February. Teach For Ukraine has launched an emergency academic support project providing Ukrainian children with free online classes by professional tutors. We called it Educational Soup to make it more fun for students to enroll. Through the project, over 1000 children from all over Ukraine could catch up on missed learning and receive social-emotional support while making new friends and participating in academic activities. One of these students is Kyrylo from Bakhmut, located in the Donetsk region that has been under constant shelling since day one. This initiative was critical to Kyrylo because he became a temporarily displaced person and was missing his friends and favorite places without knowing if he would ever return to his home. While catching up on his education, Kyrylo—who has dreams of becoming a producer—gained the confidence to launch a Telegram channel, where he posts self-produced videos. Today the channel has over 300 followers, and Kyrylo is looking forward to the future. 

A Teach For Ukraine fellow and students in a makeshift classroom that provides a safe space for learning

Now, imagine you are graduating from school. For six months, you have been preparing for this moment—taking your exams, choosing your profession and university, and pursuing your dream. And now, the exams and enrollment procedures have changed because of the war. You feel frustrated and stressed, unsure what to do or whether you will pass the exams and will be able to continue your education. Teach For Ukraine created the 0 Stress Project to provide school graduates with free academic, mental health, and career advice classes. We aimed to help them successfully prepare for the national multitest, cope with anxiety and stress, and, as a result, get enrolled into the university of their dreams. Through the project, students could study with the top Ukrainian teachers and receive social-emotional support from experienced psychologists and professional advice from distinguished experts.

Now, close your eyes and try to imagine being a temporarily displaced child in another city. You have no friends here; there is no football after school, no adventures. It is the worst summer of your life so far. To change that reality for many internally displaced children, Teach For Ukraine organized offline summer camps Zdybanka ("meeting of old friends") in three cities: Lviv, Chernivtsi, and Ternopil. Almost 400 children could catch up on missed learning, practice media literacy, arts, and health studies, and experience a sense of "normal" life with new friends and fun activities—even if those activities were held in the bomb shelters.

Graduating students pose in front of the remains of their school

Finally, imagine you are a teacher in Ukraine right now. Throughout the war, you have had to stay strong to give your students some sense of routine and stability. But what should you do during a lesson when air raid alarms go off? How do you calm scared kids? When your students share the frightening experiences they have been through, what do you say? When someone's parents have been drafted into the army, how do you support them?

Teachers were not prepared to teach during a war. And now, their job has become more critical and challenging than ever. Teach For Ukraine has been working to launch the "Sunbeam Project" to prepare our fellows and other Ukrainian teachers for teaching in the new reality. We are working to equip Ukrainian educators with the knowledge and skills to help their students—and find support for themselves—during this crisis. Through social-emotional support webinars, an online course, and other digital resources, teachers learn to manage different situations and emergencies that might happen while teaching in wartime.

Now close your eyes and imagine the war is over. All of us at Teach For Ukraine are hopeful that day will come soon. And when it does, we will have a lot of work ahead of us rebuilding education in a post-war Ukraine. To learn more and support our efforts today and in the future, visit https://teachforukraine.org/en/emergency/

The projects described above were made possible by the generous support of the World Bank, Save the Children, UNICEF, Deutsche Post DHL, Skoll Foundation, and the Embassy of Finland. Teach For Ukraine is grateful for their partnership.

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