On the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) presents accounts of children, born in the first year of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and of their parents about their respective expectations from the first year of school: “My children have never seen a peaceful sky”. The children’s everyday life, their daily roundabouts and school expectations are shown in 59 photos made in different towns and villages along the conflict’s contact line in the Donbas.
Many schools, kindergartens and other educational institutions in eastern Ukraine have been affected by the armed conflict; some of them directly damaged by shelling and shooting. Even nowadays, more than six years into the conflict, educational institutions continue being directly affected by hostilities. For many children, the daily walk to school can be dangerous, and in some cases the education process in schools situated on the very line of contact is interrupted by armed hostilities.
Within the broader Access to Education Framework, the ICRC delegation in Ukraine is using a multidisciplinary approach to address the situation of people affected by the conflict in the Donbas, and tries to improve safety of schools and kindergartens, thus contributing to the creation of a child-friendly atmosphere and safe environment. The ICRC’s Safer Access to Education program also aims to increase risk awareness among children, their teachers and parents, to improve evacuation procedures, and to reinforce their resilience.
Key activities include safe behavior development, providing a safe environment for children and the wider school community and helping them cope with the effects of the conflict: mine risk awareness sessions, psychosocial support and training sessions for teachers, distribution of educational and child development materials, anti-blast protective measures, repair/rehabilitation of educational infrastructure, enhancement of school kitchen facilities, creation of safe play spaces, provision of play and sports equipment, equipping of school basements/improvised shelters and provision of first aid training and kits.
Since 2015, this ICRC program has been extended to hundreds of educational institutions along the 450-km long conflict’s contact line in the Donbas.