The boys and girls of Ukraine have returned to school this Thursday, at the beginning of the school year marred by the Russian invasion. At a time that should be exciting, with little ones returning to classrooms and sharing their summer stories with their friends and teachers, many are returning to schools with stories of destruction and survival.
The government considers that less than 60% of schools are safe and ready to reopen, according to Unicef. Schools in the kyiv, Lviv and Chernovtsy regions are among those welcoming students, although parents can choose whether to opt for face-to-face or distance learning. Many hesitate to take their children to school, as they do not know if they will be safe.
In some schools, for example, the number of students who can attend is dictated by the limited capacity of the bomb shelter. In those that do not have ready access to shelters or are located near the borders with Belarus and Russia, or near active military zones, it will only be possible to study in a on-line, according to the Associated Press agency.
Thousands of schools across the country have been damaged or destroyed in six months of war. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Education, the number rises to 2,400 educational institutions. The war being the biggest challenge for the educational system of the country.
“[Este año escolar] It starts differently for everyone. There are those who are far from home, in other regions of Ukraine. Others are in other countries. There are those who are at a distance, on-line. There are those who are in their school or in their university, but they are not at peace. However, it is important that the school year begins. It is important that learning continues”, said the president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, who this Thursday visited a school in Irpin, a town near kyiv.
For many children, their last day of school was the day before the Russian invasion on February 24. Some 760,000 have received formal or informal education since the war began, according to Unicef, which estimates there are four million school-age children in Ukraine. According to the UN, at least 365 minors have been killed since the beginning of the Russian invasion.
The images of the Spanish photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Emilio Morenatti for the AP agency capture two faces of the return to school in Ukraine: the joy of some students who have returned to their classrooms in Irpín this September 1 and the destruction in the form of fragments of Shattered windows and walls, rubble and dust-covered desks in what were once classes in Chernigov on Tuesday.