KYIV. 9 September 2021 - The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) welcomes the efforts of the Ukrainian Government to help keep children learning and protected in conflict-affected areas by signing the Safe School Declaration Action Plan, translating commitment into action and supporting education in emergencies.
The Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) is a political promise to protect education during armed conflict, endorsed by 111 states, including Ukraine.
The round-table discussion has been held in Kyiv today, providing an opportunity to galvanise support for, and accelerate implementation of, the commitment to keep every educational facility in eastern Ukraine safe for children and teachers.
The discussion brings together government stakeholders, the humanitarian community and civil society to safeguard the right to education for all.
In eastern Ukraine, the security situation remains fragile. This year, nine attacks on children and education facilities have been reported, following the 112 incidents recorded from 2017 to 2020. Since the beginning of the conflict, over 750 educational institutions on both sides of the contact line have been damaged by the hostilities and many more have suffered disruption to education.
“The effective implementation of the National Safe Schools Declaration Action Plan is one of the key commitments for the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, aiming to guarantee safety for all participants of the educational process. That is why the Action Plan covers not only the issues of creating a safe learning environment, but also touches upon an equal access to education, its uninterruptedness, as well as a broad advocacy campaign to support the Safe Schools Declaration,” said Andrii Vitrenko, First Deputy Minister of Education and Sciences of Ukraine.
“Access to safe and quality education for all is a priority for the European Union. We are committed to support the efforts of our humanitarian partners like UNICEF in eastern Ukraine who work to keep children and their future safe despite the ongoing conflict.” said Srdan Stoyanovic, Head of European Union (EU) Humanitarian Aid Office in Ukraine.
“It is now incumbent on all of us to unite and spare no effort to ensure quality learning for some 400,000 students living along the ‘contact line’ in eastern Ukraine, especially for those 40,000 that go to school for their very first time,” said Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. “These children under seven years of age have never known a peaceful life and are making their first step into a classroom within the shadow of COVID-19 pandemic. We must uphold their right to education and health to unlock their full potential. And we are thankful to all partners supporting this cause, in particular, the European Union.”
On International Day to Protect Education from Attack, UNICEF and its partners are calling on all parties to the conflict to safeguard schools as places of protection and safety.
Education is a fundamental human right for every child. But it is also a pathway to a better, brighter, and more peaceful future for a generation of children growing up under the shadow of conflict. Yet we are confronting a catastrophic education emergency. In eastern Ukraine alone, coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted learning for hundreds of thousands children, and thousands living close to the ‘contact line’ have been too frightened to attend school due to the surge in attacks.
UNICEF is working with partners across eastern Ukraine to provide support to educational facilities on both sides of the ‘contact line’ so that repairs can be made to damaged schools and kindergartens, and so that essential education supplies – such as educational kits, furniture and sports equipment – can be replaced. Thanks to funds from the EU and commitments on safe schools, UNICEF has also provided educational facilities with standard operating procedures in case of attack.
UNICEF and partners are also providing much-needed counselling, psychosocial support and information about the risks of mines to hundreds of thousands of children, youth and caregivers affected by the conflict. However, much more still needs to be done in order to safeguard schools, and to keep children and young people learning.
UNICEF and partners stand ready to support the necessary measures envisaged by the Safe School Declaration Action Plan to ensure its full and effective implementation.