Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine has had devastating impacts on children’s access to education. Many schools were unable to reopen for in-person classes this fall, and some students struggled to access online classes due to frequent power outages caused by air strikes. UNICEF has reported a deterioration in language, reading, and mathematics abilities among Ukrainian schoolchildren.

Access to education doesn’t just mean a child’s ability to access a physical or virtual school. It also means ensuring children are supported mentally and emotionally to learn, that their surroundings are made conducive for education to be able to focus on their studies – UNESCO’s definition of access to education includes a learning environment that is safe enough to allow learning – and that they feel the knowledge they gain promises a better future.

Amid the war in Ukraine, grassroots groups are the best placed to address all aspects of access to education and ensure children can continue learning. When supported with flexible funding – funding that isn’t restricted to a particular program, but that instead allows grantees to determine the best use of their resources – grassroots groups can respond quickly to changes in wartime conditions. This includes finding solutions and creating new models to ensure their programs meet the evolving needs of children and youth. They have a deep-seated understanding of their own communities and the challenges facing children, as well as culturally relevant strategies that can help children and young people re-focus on education.

The grassroots organizations with which Global Fund for Children partners in Ukraine and the young people they serve have shown tremendous resilience and innovation, doing whatever it takes to keep children safe and ensure they can continue to learn. Grassroots groups have converted unused or broken-down spaces into classrooms; employed the latest technology to connect Ukrainian students in different parts of Ukraine and the world through virtual classrooms; and provided much-needed psychological and wellbeing support.

Grassroots groups are also uniquely positioned to understand and address the emotional and psychological distress children and youth face and how this greatly affects their ability to learn.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Global Fund for Children has been able to provide more than $3 million in flexible funding to grassroots organizations in Ukraine and neighboring countries that are supporting children and youth. But as the war stretches on well past the 18-month mark, our partners’ immediate and long-term needs continue to grow. Grassroots groups need more flexible funding to curb learning loss and to ensure children can continue to access education.

Read the full article about education in Ukraine by Ashani Ratnayake at Alliance Magazine.