Olena Zelenska and UNICEF continue to partner to protect children in Ukraine and their access to learning during the war

The First Lady of Ukraine has teamed up with UNICEF to help protect children’s rights and improve education as the war continues.

The First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Office in Ukraine, extending an already fruitful partnership to further protect children’s rights, improve education and provide mental health support for those affected by war.

Prior to the war, UNICEF had already worked with Olena Zelenska on a project she initiated to reform school meals. Now, they will join forces to protect children and young people, particularly vulnerable groups, from all over Ukraine, as the violence continues to turn lives upside down.

“One of the most important directions of our work is informing people,” says Olena Zelenska. “We have to keep telling the world how the war steals childhood from our children. The world should hear about this every day and not forget,” highlighted Ms Zelenska

The Memorandum between UNICEF and the Spouse of the President identifies several core areas of cooperation. This includes access and quality of education in schools and kindergartens; implementing a National Program for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support to immediately address the trauma of war; creating a barrier-free environment for children; and building social inclusion.

One of key elements of the cooperation will be the Back to Learning Together Initiative, which UNICEF launches together with the Ministry of Education and other government agencies under auspices of the First Lady ahead of the school year.

The campaign will include several components, such as safety of learning spaces, in particular through setup of shelters and arranging activities as well as the guidelines for teachers and mine risk education. The campaign will also cover psychosocial support and engagement of youth and their development..

“We are committed to continue this important partnership between UNICEF and the First Lady. The war in Ukraine – and the destruction wrought on the education system – is having a dramatic impact on the lives of 5.7 million school-aged children. Together with Ms. Zelenska we continue our collaboration in protection of the rights of every child and creating opportunities for their continuous learning in these difficult times. Education is a right and one of the most important investments to provide normalcy, safety for children. Ukrainian children in the country and abroad need safe access to education, mental health support to heal, space and opportunities to connect with their peers and help to catch up with lost learning,” said Mr Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine.

The campaign will focus on training of teachers and school psychologists to strengthen psychosocial support of school children. It will also work to recruit young volunteers in communities and update the approach to online learning so that levels of social interaction and engagement of children are increased. It is important that the community supports children and creates opportunities for education, communication, and socialization in safe conditions. Communities and local authorities will play a key role in supporting children and creating opportunities for their education, communication and social interactions in safe conditions.

The Back to Learning Together Initiative aims to restore access of Ukrainian children to education and improve their physical health, nutrition, and social-emotional development. This is important for everyone: for parents, children, teachers and school administration.

The learning process also helps children maintain mental, physical and psychosocial wellbeing. During the new academic year, adults together with children have the opportunity to choose the modality: online, offline or blended learning. However, access to education should be a priority for every chіld.

Media contacts

Nina Sorokopud
Chief of Communication
UNICEF in Ukraine