site.btaUPDATED UNICEF Bulgaria Provides Access to Education to Over 10,000 Ukrainian Children
In 2023, UNICEF Bulgaria provided access to formal and informal education to over 10,000 Ukrainian children, UNICEF Bulgaria said Tuesday in a press release. UNICEF supports a network of learning and play centres in the largest areas such as Burgas, Plovdiv, Sofia and Varna and the integration of children in local schools through language courses, school supplies and support for teachers and mediators. Over 50,000 Ukrainian and Bulgarian children have already received learning materials provided by UNICEF in Bulgarian schools where Ukrainian children are enrolled.
As the new school year approaches, more and more Ukrainian families want to enroll their children in Bulgarian schools. UNICEF supports the "Back to School" initiatives throughout the country and will continue its efforts for the integration of refugee children from Ukraine and their inclusion in the educational system in Bulgaria.
Data from the State Agency for Refugees in Bulgaria shows that from the beginning of the year until July 30, 74 persons were granted refugee status, and 3,327 persons were granted humanitarian status in 2023. Requests for protection of unaccompanied minors for the same period were 1,761. A few days ago, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees congratulated Bulgaria for its adequate response to the migrant pressure.
For refugee children from Ukraine, the new school year also marks the start of another uncertain period, as more than half of children from pre-school to high school are not enrolled in national education systems in the seven refugee-hosting countries. Children in pre-school and middle school age are most likely to miss their education. Language barriers, difficult access to school and overburdened education systems are among the reasons for the low enrollment rate, UNICEF explained.
"For refugee children who have already experienced loss, displacement and violence, schools are more than a place to learn. They provide a sense of routine and security, an opportunity for children to build friendships and receive help from their teachers. Schools can also provide access to support services for children's mental health and well-being. In Bulgaria, we are working with donors and partners to help Ukrainian children learn and develop in UNICEF-supported learning centres and Bulgarian schools," said Christina de Bruin, UNICEF representative in Bulgaria.
Refugee children who are not yet part of the education system of their host countries are likely to try to study online in the Ukrainian curriculum or through other distance learning platforms. Some refugee children may have given up on education altogether. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable, as their physical and mental vulnerability, natural to their age, is heightened by the interruption of their studies and the stress they experience.