Ukraine: War’s Toll on Schools, Children’s Future

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Broken windows, burned out classrooms and vandalized property stand as somber reminders of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which engulfed these once vibrant schools.

SOUNDBITE: Hrianyk Oleksandr Principal of School *62, Kharkiv

The building was hit by two artillery shells.

The Classroom was destroyed, all the windows and doors in all the classrooms, halls, and passages were blown out.


Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, numerous schools and kindergartens were hit by airstrikes, artillery, and rockets.

Many were looted and ransacked.


I was lying on the floor in the basement, and I thought the building was going to collapse.

The enemy has brought us so much pain.


The war has killed, injured, and traumatized Ukrainian children.

It has also had devastating impact on their access to education.

Russian forces occupied schools, turning them into bases and barracks, where soldiers took shelter, launched military operations, stored weapons, and parked armored vehicles.

SOUNDBITE: Valentina Zarytska Principal, Kukhari School

Of course, we all, children, and parents, want our school to be restored.

We want to be able to work here again.

We want our life to get back to normal.


Russian soldiers scrawled graffiti on walls, expressing hatred and vitriol towards Ukraine and Ukrainians.

The looted computers and other equipment, which are war crimes.

In some cases, Russian military use of schools made them targets for Ukrainian attacks.

This school in Borodianka, Kyivska region was reduced to ruins after a battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Ukrainian forces in some instances also used schools for military purposes, which may have increased the risk of Russian attacks.

Overall, thousands of schools have been damaged.

SOUNDBITE: Romaniuk Inna Director of Education, Borodianka

It was impossible to hold back the tears.

The school was destroyed, everything was ruined.

The classrooms were looted, no equipment was left.

It was a terrible situation.


Ukraine, unlike Russia, has endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and instructed its forces to avoid using schools and kindergartens for military purposes.


Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has devastated schools and kindergartens throughout the country, Human Rights Watch said in a report and video released today. Since February 2022, over 3,790 educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed, according to Ukrainian government figures, severely interrupting access to education for millions of children.

The 63-page report, “Tanks on the Playground,” documents the damage and destruction of schools and kindergartens in four Ukrainian regions during the first months of the fighting. Most of the damage to educational facilities resulted from 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. Russian forces frequently looted and pillaged schools they occupied, a war crime.


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