Mr President, as you said, the concept note for this event clearly exposes the devastating effect of Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine on education and training, manpower, health, work experience and the stock of human capital. As he mentions, many of the 5.23 million people seeking refuge in countries neighboring Ukraine are children. Instead of learning the history of the war and its disastrous consequences in their classrooms, they live it. We have just learned that 1,892 educational institutions have been damaged, many of them completely destroyed, making it impossible to return to regular education.
In some areas temporarily under the control of the Russian armed forces, there are disturbing reports of Russian troops interfering in the education of Ukrainian children – with teachers brought in from Russia to impose the Russian curriculum.
Unfortunately, many Ukrainians – including children – have been forcibly removed from their homes and deported against their will to Russia. The social and psychological trauma experienced by these children will be felt for years.
Mr President, in 2020, young people around the world have been driven out of classrooms. In the UK, the pandemic has forced all of our schools, colleges and universities to rapidly switch to distance learning. But something positive came out of this change; and in the years since, we’ve seen a revolution in the way people learn.
As we champion the return to in-person teaching, during the pandemic we have seen the development of some innovative approaches to digital teaching that have enhanced the experience and learning alongside face-to-face. For some, this offer was vital in supporting their participation and consolidating learning. Where students lack the tools to take advantage, we have ensured that there are emergency funds for universities to support disadvantaged students, including with the purchase of IT equipment.
Technology has an incredible ability to broaden our horizons. It is not only about allowing students from the OSCE region to take a virtual excursion into the Andes, it can just as easily bring students from all over the world to enjoy the benefits of our own education systems from their own home, for example through the UK’s leading transnational education provision, or TNE, where students from all over the world can access and benefit from UK education, regardless of their location. Whether students decide to learn in-person, on a secondary campus, or through online and blended activities, the UK’s TNE offering offers high-quality options.
Education exports such as TNE make an important contribution to our economies. In fact, in 2019, TNE was worth an estimated £2.2 billion. It also helps build global relationships and educational partnerships, opening up opportunities for greater collaboration and knowledge exchange.
Mr President, these lessons can be learned as the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic fade. But for Ukrainian children whose schools have been destroyed by Russian forces, or who have been driven from their homes, it is unclear when their education will be able to return to normal. Let’s be clear: children are paying for President Putin’s war. The international community must act together to continue to hold Russia to account for its horrific crimes.
The UK remains steadfast in its support for Ukraine. We reaffirm our commitment to the reconstruction of the country and will continue our continued assistance to Ukraine for as long as necessary. We stand with Ukraine and its children and young people.