Ukraine’s empty classrooms
More than half of the children in the country have been displaced by the conflict with Russia. This photo essay highlights how the war has disrupted students’ education
Children in Ukraine had learned how to adapt to remote learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when Russia invaded the country and upended its education system. More than half of the country’s 7.5 million children have been displaced by the conflict, while five million have had to pause their studies. In the face of the immense challenges posed by the war, continuing children’s education has become yet another form of resistance in Ukraine.
Teachers have returned to remote learning. Students log in from different countries in Europe, safer regions in western Ukraine and from the areas hit hardest by the war. And as soon as it was safe to do so, schools have been reopened in towns no longer on the front lines of battle. This happened in Irpin, which had been occupied by Russian troops for a month.
Natalia, 42, the head of a school in the neighboring town of Bucha, says that reopening schools was key to helping children rebuild their routines, as was socializing with fellow students. In some Russian-occupied towns, the invading troops used schools as barracks. They defecated in classrooms and left offensive messages on the blackboards as they killed and subjugated the residents. In other cases, where Moscow’s troops were pushed back by Ukrainian counter-offensives, Russian soldiers destroyed schools before they fled.
This photo essay, made in collaboration with the NGO Educo, shows the empty classrooms of a school in Irpin, a town of 100,000 inhabitants on the outskirts of Kyiv that was the scene of fierce fighting between the Ukrainian and Russian armies.