Helping Ukrainian children return to school

Ukrainian girl at desk

Our partners in Poland and the UK are working with Ukrainian families to help children integrate into local schools and continue their studies.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Poland has seen an influx of Ukrainian refugees. As of 24th May 2022, the UN reported that just over 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine into Poland.

Obstacles Ukrainian refugees face when accessing education

The women and children fleeing due to the war in Ukraine face many obstacles in their new lives as refugees in Poland. These affect their ability to access education, with one of the main barriers in this case being cost. Refugees who have left their whole livelihoods behind typically do not have the money for books and other necessary school equipment.

Language also poses a substantial barrier, as many Ukrainian children attending Polish schools are unable to understand the instructions and work given to them. The situation is exacerbated by Polish schools lacking infrastructure and resources to teach Polish as a second language.

Furthermore, the trauma experienced by Ukrainian refugees can make it difficult to focus in a classroom setting. For example, in the Polish village of Krępsko, 3-year-old Vlad and 12-year-old Tania have returned to school for the first time since fleeing Ukraine. Vlad has started attending the village school, but he’s terrified whenever a door slams, as the loud sound reminds him of bombs dropping on his hometown.

Meanwhile, Tania is stressed at school because she can’t understand Polish. For now, her mother has decided that the best option is for her to learn Polish in an online setting with other Ukrainian children. Our partners are actively helping children like Vlad and Tania return to school.

How WONDER is helping Ukrainians return to school

WONDER has been supporting Ukrainians in Poland since 2018, through the FATIMA Project. We work alongside locally led Polish organisations, delivering both emergency and long-term support. As the number of Ukrainians arriving in Poland grows by the day, our partners are working with families to help children integrate into local education and continue their studies.

Early donations provided children with essential school supplies, such as backpacks and new clothes. This enabled Ukranian children, whose families fled their homes with very little, to attend class once more.

Access to education for adult women refugees in Poland is an equally important issue. Cost is again a significant obstacle when it comes to accessing education, as Ukrainian women are faced with increased financial burdens as a result of the war. Many Ukrainian women have become single heads of households3, having to support both children and elderly family members on their own. While many are eager to find work, some require language lessons first in order to adapt to life in Poland. Our partners not only provide language classes, but also help women with the paperwork they need to begin work.

In the long term, WONDER is planning to help 1,200 Ukrainian women and their children in 5 Polish cities, working alongside their Polish partner organization PONTES. Our work prioritises the educational and psychological needs of women and children. By providing Polish language classes, we help Ukrainian women and children become better integrated within the local communities, facilitating their access to education and work.

Other organised activities include: personalised mentoring, psychological support, employability support and cultural activities. These aim to help Ukrainian women and their children rebuild their lives.

We are also helping Ukrainian girls who are arriving in the UK through our partner, the Baytree Centre. By attending Baytree’s “Into School” programme, these girls receive the support and guidance they need to navigate the British school system, while also practicing and strengthening their English. Ukrainian students who are completing their studies from afar are provided with a safe place to study, and an opportunity to meet other Ukrainian girls their age.

Author: Pati Piotrowska

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