Education unions, national and local authorities and international organizations are mobilizing to ensure access to education for all refugee students
Education unions from Ukraine and other European countries, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, local authorities from neighboring countries and international organizations met in Warsaw on May 3-4 to intensify their collaboration to ensure the continuation of education for all Ukrainian refugees. students. Since the start of the war on February 24, nearly 6 million people have fled the country, with UNICEF estimating that half of the refugees are children.
“The solidarity shown by those fleeing the war in Ukraine has been absolutely exceptional. We must do everything in our power to maintain it for as long as necessary. Education unions are working tirelessly with all stakeholders to ensure that every student displaced by war in Ukraine has access to quality education abroad, that every refugee teacher receives the support they need to get through this crisis,” said David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International. .
Organized by Education International in collaboration with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and hosted by Zwiazek Nauczycielstwa Polskiego (ZNP), EI member organization in Poland, the event brought together a wide range of stakeholders in Ukraine and in the countries receiving Ukraine. refugees for a first policy dialogue on the best ways to meet the educational needs of Ukrainian students.
The meeting was opened by David Edwards (General Secretary of Education International), Andreas Schleicher (Director of the Directorate for Education and Skills and Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the OECD) and Larry Flanagan ( President of the EI European Region – the Trade Union Education Committee).
Map challenges and needs
The first part of the event brought together speakers from Ukraine and neighboring countries which are now hosting large numbers of Ukrainian refugees.
In an online intervention, Andriy Vitrenko, First Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, provided participants with an update on the situation of education in Ukraine, noting that more than 100 institutions of education, 10 to 15 per cent of all educational institutions in the country, had been destroyed, and many others badly damaged.
The First Deputy Minister also spoke about the online resources that the Ukrainian government is making available to support the education of refugee students, including online courses and textbooks in Ukrainian. Olha Chabaniuk, Vice President of the Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine, an EI member organization in the country, spoke about the impact of the war on education and the teaching profession. The union leader pointed out that as many Ukrainian teachers are women, a significant part of the profession has now fled the war to neighboring countries.
Information on the needs of Ukrainian refugee students and the challenges faced by host communities has also been provided by education unions in countries bordering Ukraine that have hosted millions of refugees since 24 February. Participants heard from representatives of EI member organizations ZNP and KSN NSZZ “Solidarnosc” (Poland), OZPSAV (Slovakia), PSZ-SEH and PDSZ (Hungary) and “Alma Mater” NTUF (Romania).
Whether welcoming refugees into union buildings, organizing donations or volunteering at border crossings and reception centres, education unions and their members have shown great solidarity with those fleeing war.
Local authorities also took the floor to present the situation in their jurisdictions and the measures put in place to support refugees’ access to education. Coming from Poland, Wojciech Bakun, Mayor of Przemyśl, and Andrzej Suchenek from the Department of Education of the City of Warsaw, spoke about the support offered to Ukrainian refugees in their cities and the needs that must be met urgently. Katarína Kremser, from ZMOS, an association of Slovak municipalities, gave an overview of the refugee situation in Slovakia, highlighting areas that need immediate attention. All the speakers underlined the need to increase funding for schools which today welcome thousands of new students who need dedicated support.
Learning from previous refugee crises
Participants also heard from education unions, local authorities and international organizations sharing best practices from previous refugee crises in Europe and beyond.
GEW, EI member organization in Germany, and Silvana Safouane from the Ministry of General and Vocational Education in Hamburg shared lessons from the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis, noting that measures put in place since 2015 to including refugee students helped to accelerate the response to the current crisis.
The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), the European region of EI, presented the results of its project “European sectoral social partners in education promote the effective integration of migrants and refugees in the Education” which examined educational responses to the 2015 refugee crisis in Spain, Serbia and Belgium.
Further insights and lessons on supporting refugee students and teachers were shared by the international organizations present at the event: the OECD, UNHCR, UNESCO-IIEP and SIRIUS – Migrant Education Policy Network .
Moving forward to ensure access to quality education for all refugee students
Participants discussed possible solutions to current challenges and reaffirmed their commitment to all refugee students and teachers. Education International member organizations will continue to coordinate and work across borders to ensure that all refugee students have access to quality education and that all refugee teachers are supported throughout this crisis.