Under sirens, threats, Ukraine’s children go back to school

Ukrainian children on Friday began their second school year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, forcing classes online and in underground bomb shelters in several parts of the country. More than 1,300 Ukrainian schools were destroyed over the past 18 months, but the dangers will not stop Ukrainian children from going back to school again.

September 1 marks the start of the Ukrainian school year. Across the country, “first bell” events celebrate a day of knowledge, when the first bells of the school year signal the opening of classrooms across the country.

Vlad, who lives in a suburb of the capital Kyiv, remembers celebrating the day at his school when he was a pupil. This year he attended with his own children, age six and eight, dressed in traditional festive clothes.

“At 9am all the classes line up and the school authorities give speeches. Then an older student comes in carrying a young student on their shoulders, who is ringing a bell. They circle past all the teachers and students in the line and this symbolises the start of the new school year,” he said.

This year, in addition to the old traditions, Vlad’s children had some newer routines. On the first day of school, the Ukrainian father brought an emergency bag for each of his children, to be kept in the school’s air raid shelter throughout the academic year.

Suggested items inside include a blanket, a respiratory mask, essential medicines and a favourite toy.

Knowledge gaps

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