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Joint NGO Report Highlights Challenges Faced by Ukrainian Youth in Poland

Anisa Husain/CARE

Anisa Husain/CARE

New research reveals that Ukrainian children in Poland battle language barriers, social isolation, and obstacles to attending Polish schools, two years into the conflict.

Warsaw, February 22, 2024 – As the crisis in Ukraine persists, hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents have sought refuge in Poland, yet nearly half of them remain out of school with their futures hanging in the balance. To shed light on this critical issue, CARE International in Poland, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Save the Children Poland have released the joint report: “Out of School: Assessment on Barriers to School Enrollment for Ukrainian Refugee Adolescents in Poland.”

The report delves into the multifaceted challenges hindering the education of Ukrainian children in Poland. From logistical and financial barriers to the mental well-being of children, adolescents, and their caregivers, the report provides a comprehensive analysis of the factors contributing to their exclusion from the education system.

“By November 2022, we already knew that many of Ukraine’s youth were out of school. Together with our partners, we wanted to understand where they were. We wanted to know: What are they doing? What are they thinking and planning? What could we do about it, and what would be the consequences if we didn’t?” said Piotr Sasin, Country Director of Care International in Poland.

The research highlights logistical and financial barriers as significant obstacles to school enrollment. From overcrowded schools to hidden costs such as school materials and clothing requirements, many Ukrainian families find themselves unable to navigate the complexities of the Polish education system. Nearly half of older adolescents said they had difficulty accessing Polish education. 53% of adult caregivers and 24% of older adolescents noted a lack of understanding of the Polish education system.

Masha* (16), one of the children interviewed, described the differences between the Polish and Ukrainian education systems: “Everything was great, but I didn’t like that after eighth grade, I went to the lyceum. We studied at the lyceum for four years, and I didn’t want to just study for another four years. So I could study for two more years at a Ukrainian school and go to university.”

Many children and adolescents, including those with physical and cognitive disabilities, encounter additional difficulties in accessing education due to infrastructural limitations or educational systems’ differences. Experiences of bullying and harassment further complicate their integration into Polish schools. Although many adolescents experienced a sense of safety and comfort within Polish communities, 14% mentioned being bullied by their Polish peers. In addition, 19% of caregivers reported similar experiences for their children and adolescents.

“The mental well-being of children and their caregivers plays a crucial role in school enrollment. In rural areas, 48% of adolescents indicate they never interact with Polish peers, leading to feelings of isolation and potential psychosocial distress. Further, many caregivers, particularly those heading female-headed households, face immense stress and lack adequate support, impacting their ability to ensure their children’s education,” stressed Alan Moseley, the Country Director in IRC in Poland.

In response to the report’s findings, CARE, IRC, and Save the Children Poland call for urgent action to reintegrate Ukrainian children into the education system. Recommendations include increasing investment in the education sector, decentralizing resources to accommodate incoming Ukrainian adolescents, and expanding linguistic and cultural assistance programs in schools.

“It is deeply concerning to see a great number of Ukrainian children falling out of the education system. Every child has the right to quality education, regardless of their circumstances. Our latest report underscores the urgent need for collaborative efforts to ensure these children have access to schooling and the opportunity to build a brighter future. As Eglantyne Jebb once said, ‘Every generation of children offers mankind the possibility of rebuilding his ruin of a world.’ But to make it possible, we must prioritize education as a fundamental right and invest in initiatives that support the educational needs of all children, especially those affected by conflict and displacement,” highlighted Bujar Hoxha, Save the Children Country Director.

The full report can be downloaded here.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Jakub Mejer

CARE International in Poland


+48 505 073 551

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