Russia’s atrocity-ridden invasion of Ukraine may have slipped slightly from international headlines in recent weeks, but the horror is ongoing just the same.
A new report out today highlights how Moscow’s massive military assault has devastated schools and kindergartens throughout Ukraine. More than 3,790 educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed, according to Ukrainian government figures. This has disrupted access to education for millions of children.
Of course, education in Ukraine has been under attack since Russia first invaded the country in 2014. This new research documents in particular the damage and destruction to educational facilities in four Ukrainian regions during the early months of Moscow’s second invasion, which began in February 2022.
Most of it is the result of aerial attacks, artillery shelling, rocket strikes, and, in some cases, attacks using cluster munitions – causing significant damage to roofs, the collapse of walls, and major debris in classrooms.
What’s more, Russian forces frequently looted and pillaged schools they occupied. This is a war crime. They took computers, televisions, interactive whiteboards, other school equipment – even heating systems. What was not stolen was often broken.
When they withdrew from school buildings, Russian forces left behind burned-out, ransacked classrooms, with anti-Ukrainian hate graffitied on the walls.
Many students from schools damaged or destroyed have had to try to continue their education elsewhere, studying in shifts or learning online. The latter has been made even more difficult by Russian forces’ attacks on power infrastructure in Ukraine and the resulting outages of electricity and internet.
All this has clearly eroded the quality of education kids are getting. You may think, well, Russia has caused so much devastation and committed so many war crimes in its invasion of Ukraine, it’s difficult to even keep track of it all, even as efforts to deliver justice continue. Why are schools any different?
But these attacks on education should not get lost in the smoldering mix. Education is worth special attention from international donors and aid agencies because things like rebuilding schools and bolstering children’s education are at the heart of Ukraine’s future.
In its destruction of schools and kindergartens, Russia has been trying to steal that future. The world must not allow that to happen.