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EU scrambles to plug gaps in education and childcare for Ukrainian refugees

The European Commission announced a raft of new measures Wednesday aimed at alleviating education and child-related challenges faced by Ukrainian refugees arriving in Europe.

The proposed EU policies are meant to harmonize recognition of Ukrainian diplomas, give schools access to Ukraine’s national curriculum and provide funding for psychological support for children fleeing war.

“Education is probably the most important urgent and concrete task ahead of us,” said Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas at a press conference announcing the proposals alongside fellow Commission Vice President Dubravka Šuica, and Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

More than 3.5 million people have fled to the EU since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine almost one month ago, with most of them going to neighboring Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The EU also announced Wednesday it would release another €3.4 billion in recovery funds to help member states cope with refugees.

Schinas said European schools will soon be able to access Ukrainian educational material through the EU’s online learning platform School Education Gateway, but admitted this would only be helpful if children are also given electronic devices to access classes.

He also said the EU was finalizing the Ukrainian national qualification framework, which would allow refugees’ diplomas and professional qualifications to be immediately recognized as valid. Countries such as Romania and Poland have already moved to relax similar legal obstacles in recent weeks.

Refugees will also soon be able to access an online platform called the EU Talent Pool, which allows candidates to present their skills and availability virtually to potential employers, following previous trial runs of the tool in Southern Europe.

The EU will also provide funding for “psychosocial support and counselling” for children, according to Šuica, and will launch a new platform to “strengthen coordination among key children’s rights actors to identify further needs,” the European Union Network for Children’s Rights.

The UN estimates 1.5 million children have fled Ukraine since war erupted, with an average of 55 moving across the border every minute.

“This war in Ukraine is putting children’s safety, their rights, and physical and psychological wellbeing seriously at risk,” Šuica said. “It is therefore top priority for the European Commission to urgently respond to their humanitarian needs.”

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