June 22, 2024

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How Ukraine is trying to help its ‘lost generation’

2 min read

Down a marble-clad former metro passage in eastern Ukraine, more than 10 metres beneath the ground, are newly installed classrooms so deep they could withstand a nuclear blast.

The underground school in Kharkiv — adorned with colourful decorations, toys and pictures — is the safest place for pupils to be, boasts Iryna Tarasenko, the city’s head of education.

The classrooms are just one of the desperate measures Ukraine is taking to shield its children from war and mitigate the devastating impact of the conflict with Russia on a young generation scarred by personal loss and disrupted education.

“This generation of children really lost a lot — and lost not only in terms of knowledge, but also in terms of their development,” said Iryna Potapenko, an education researcher at STEM Osvita, a non-profit group.

Young Ukrainians have suffered through at least two years of conflict; for those in areas affected by Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the subsequent conflict in the eastern Donbas region, the trauma stretches back far longer. With little sign of any conclusion to the war, the impact on the nation’s children and teenagers is already severe enough to have long-lasting effects.

Ukrainian children had undergone their biggest slump in reading and literacy on record, said the deputy minister for schools, Andriy Stashkiv. Stress and isolation had increased, he said, as young people led a life of “air raids, shelters, distance learning, lack of communication with peers and little socialisation because of the war”.

For most children, school closures during the war have denied them a normal school life, the chance to make friends and interact with teachers. Those who fled abroad feel disconnected from friends and family; those still in Ukraine are often stuck with parents who keep them at home for fear of missile strikes. Children living in occupied territories, after enduring the violence of the invasion, live with the ongoing fear of…

2024-02-23 06:00:04

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