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Refugee children from Ukraine at a temporary shelter in Krakow, Poland. March 15, 2022. © Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via AP

(Brussels) – A Bulgarian firm has begun providing free access to online learning materials and textbooks for children who have fled Ukraine, Human Rights Watch said today.

Other European telecommunications providers should follow the example of Bulgaria’s Yettel, which is providing the service without charge to children and their families. If other European telecommunications providers do the same, it will offer immediate educational relief to millions of children who have been cut off from schooling due to the war in Ukraine.

“Efforts like those of Bulgaria’s Yettel will help provide immediate emergency education to children fleeing Ukraine,” said Hye Jung Han, children’s rights and technology researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Offering children free access to familiar textbooks and learning material in their own language will provide some relief for displaced and distressed children and their parents, and temporarily serve as a mobile solution for families fleeing to safety.”

Six weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more than 4.5 million children have been displaced from their homes, including more than 2 million children who have fled the country and become refugees.

If more European telecommunications providers adopted these efforts, they could help protect children’s education in the early stages of this emergency, as host countries work to ensure uprooted children’s access to school. While European countries have opened their schools to refugee children, children face the challenges of learning a different curriculum in a new language, near the end of the school year. Free access to Ukrainian educational materials would provide a bridge to such formal education in countries of refuge.

“Past and current humanitarian crises have taught the world that when children lose their access to education, they risk losing their futures,” Han said. “Telecommunications providers can help stop the hemorrhaging of children’s futures, today.”

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