Since February 24, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, more than 6.5 million Ukrainian citizens have sought refuge in the European Union. These are, for the most part, women with school-age children, who have been forced to abandon their possessions, their loved ones and a stable life. We know that we have a fundamental responsibility to provide assistance, as neighbors and immediate allies of Ukraine. And our priority was to make Ukrainian families and children feel welcome. For this reason, the EU directive on temporary protection was activated for the first time, an instrument that allows immediate protection to be granted to the millions of people fleeing the war.
This status includes, among other things, the right to education: all Ukrainian refugees under the age of 18 who are entitled to temporary protection have the right to education and training (early childhood education, primary and secondary education, education and training). formation). training) within EU systems. We have been able to guarantee easy and welcoming procedures for everyone, students and educators, also because we know the importance of a stable daily routine, direct contacts with other children and appropriate teaching strategies. In this sense, we have had to face a great and double challenge: in most cases, children have to learn the language of the host country in order to participate in the classroom. And yet we also aim, at the same time, to give them the opportunity to keep their language and keep their culture alive in the face of their return to their country. Young Ukrainians are the future of Ukraine.
Welcoming so many Ukrainian refugees to European schools and universities is both a great opportunity to share our lifestyle and prepare young Ukrainians for their European journey. Excellent cooperation with our Ukrainian counterparts has been fundamental in everything we are doing. School activity in Ukraine has resumed whenever possible since March 14 with the support of distance education. In the short and medium term, digital education and distance learning can offer solutions to Ukrainian refugee children. Therefore, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Ukraine, we ensured that the teaching materials of Ukraine were also available to students present in the EU. Many Ukrainian refugees are teachers and several quick mechanisms for their recruitment have been put in place. Thanks to exchanges with the Ukrainian authorities, Member States can consult documents on qualifications in official databases, as many countries have removed administrative barriers to access to the profession and the recognition of previous qualifications. The Commission provides free resources and information to teachers, European or Ukrainian refugees, to support them in their daily work on the online platform ‘School Education Gateway’ for school education.
Dedicated focus groups promote peer support for teachers and students from Ukraine and neighboring countries, with the participation of more than 3,000 Ukrainian teachers in the eTwinning community. We are also mobilizing EU funds to support Member States, including through the Erasmus program, the Commission’s program for education, training, youth and sport. By the end of this school year we can say with confidence that we are ready for the fall and that our schools will continue to be a welcoming and safe place.
Every war is a war against children. Ukraine can count on the EU. We defend the same lifestyle, the same model of society, the same values and the same principles. And our solidarity is a fundamental pillar of our association, present and future.
Schinas is Vice-President of the EU Commission and responsible for the portfolio European lifestyle promotion Gabriel is Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth