The Russian invasion in Ukraine has so far forced more than 7.2 million Ukrainian citizens to leave their home country, according to most recent UNCHR data. Among them, 4 million applied for temporary protection in the host countries. In Romania, the General Inspectorate for Immigration has registered 82,647 Ukrainians, of which more than 45% are children.
Families taking refuge in Romania, especially those with children, need help. They need shelter, correct and updated information for access to education and jobs. They need a real chance.
- EduCare is a project run by Edupedu.ro in partnership with Bosch Foundation Romania, to provide correct information and data in the field of education, obtained from official sources and which are verified and more importantly useful. It is an educational information hub in support of refugees, containing information about activities and initiatives of organisations and other entities aiming to assist them. The voice of the community will also be heard because interaction with Ukrainian refugees must be real and natural.
How many children need support
The official number stands at 39,434 children. Since the start of the humanitarian crisis, 4,278 children under care of Ukrainian social services have been identified in Romania. 210 of them are currently included in the Romanian welfare system, according to the National Child Protection Agency.
Among the children who have applied for temporary protection of the Romanian state, most are of pre-school or primary school age: more than 1,000, followed by lower secondary school age children (in Romanian equivalent – children in grades V-VIII), counting more than 3,500. Some 2,400 high school students are also registered, according to data provided by the General Inspectorate for Immigration to Edupedu.ro.
- Years 0-5: 5,748
- Years 6-10: 5,770
- Years 11-14: 3,581
- Years 15-18: 2,446
- Years 19-22: 1,338
The temporary protection status offers persons who have left Ukraine free access to health services, welfare, accommodation, domestic transport and a lump sum to cover strictly necessary expenses.
But it must be noted that the official data do not cover the people who have registered for temporary protection but did not receive the status yet, or the number of people who have not registered for it at all. Thus the data may not reflect all people who have fled Ukraine for Romania since the start of the Russian invasion. That means many more children may face this situation in which they have to keep continue their education away from home, from parts of their family, from colleagues and teachers, from their schools and the whole universe of their life so far.
Some of these children have reached schools in Romania. The Education Ministry’s centralised data show that a week after the new school year started in Romania some 4,031 children were registered as unattached children – some 10% o the total number of Ukrainian children registered in Romania. Of these, 1,255 are of pre-school age and 2,776 are school aged children. Procedures by which parents can enrol their children in a school or kindergarten in Romania, at any time, can be accessed here.
The other 9 in 10 Ukrainian children currently on Romanian territory are most probably connected to their schools and teachers in Ukraine, continuing their education online on the platform launched by authorities in Kiev. The most important information issued by the Ministry of Education in Ukraine for Ukrainian pupils and students can be found here.
When the crisis started, emergency services were provided mainly thanks to the involvement of humanitarian organisations. When refugees children start school again is when the real labor for authorities and institutions willing to support them starts: they need to adapt to diferent academic expectations, learn a new language, create a social identity integrating both their own environment and that of the country hosting them, according to the most recent guides provided by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It warns that based on previous international experiences the difficulties faced by refugees are amplified when they become segregated to poor areas with disadvantaged schools.
Romania, as most countries neighbouring Ukraine, is for the first time facing a wave of refugees at this scale. This makes it difficult to find answers based on experience. It is a time to find solutions in other countries which have more experience in the field, in organisations and entities which have been going through such situations for a while already. This can decide between success and failure.
What are the needs of refugee families
The UN Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) collected data in a poll involving 23,054 Ukrainian citizens between May 2022 – end of August 2022. Some 2,773 answers, or 12% of the total, were registered in Romania. 86% of respondents were women and 80% had become separated from one or more members of their families.
Refugees participating in the poll came mainly from the Odeska, Kharkivska and Kyiv regions. 17% of the respondents first moved within Ukrainian borders, then were forced by war to leave the country. 25% had an international biometric passport.
The level of education of participating refugees had the following structure: 47 % – higher education, 27 % – vocational studies, 21% – high school. Before they left their country, 73% of poll participants who took refuge in another country, including those in Romania, were employed. 12% were pensioners, 8% housewives. Most working people were involved in education (12%), trade (12%), health (6%), hospitality (4%), construction works (4%), mining industry (3%), cosmetics (3%), social services (3%), public administration (3%).
Two in three refugees (63%) said they planned to stay in their current host country for the near future. Their reasons: safety, family links and employment. Only 13% reported willing to return to Ukraine in the near future, but two thirds of them were not sure when they’d be able to do so.
It is thus essential that the needs of these families be met and one of their biggest is the need to find easier access to essential information. The same poll showed that the biggest need was finding financial support (58%), followed by finding a job (39%), proper medical care (32%), insuring a legal status in the respective country (27%), a home (26%) and education (21%).
Andreas Schleicher, Director – Education&Skill at the OECD, a reputed expert and researcher in education sciences, brings light on what difference a good school and good teachers can make for a refugee child, whom they listen to, whose needs are met and skills found.
“In 1954, the United States opened its borders to a refugee from Syria. His son, Steve Jobs, became one of the world’s most creative entrepreneurs, revolutionising industries from personal computers and animated movies to mobile phones and digital publishing. All that became possible because his host country afforded him a school and teachers who helped him develop his potential,” writes Andreas Schleicher.