J-STORIES - Millions of Ukrainian children have been displaced since the Russian invasion. But a Japanese non-government organization (NGO) is helping some of them to continue their education through "smart classes."
In addition to the shock and stress of their predicament, part of the challenge facing displaced children is adapting to new living environments and finding ways to keep up with their studies. Living conditions inside refuge accommodation centers (RACs) are cramped, with only basic partitions between each family's designated living space, making it hard for children to concentrate.
To address this problem, NGO Peace Winds Japan has teamed up with other organizations to set up a "smart class" at the technical university in Moldova, one of the countries neighboring Ukraine that has opened its doors to refugees.
Together with a local organization and others from Britain and Israel, PWJ has secured classroom space at The Technical University of Moldova, which is housing four RACs inside its dormitories, where around 60 displaced families, including 80 children, are staying. It has also supplied 20 laptop computers, which are linked up to the university's wi-fi, allowing students to study on their own and communicate online with their teachers back in Ukraine.
One of the cooperating organizations is SmartAID, an international non-profit outfit headquartered in Britain that comprises humanitarian aid professionals and entrepreneurs from the technology industry. As well as providing emergency assistance and medium-term support to Ukrainian refugees, SmartAID has set up an educational program for refugee children called “Smart Classes,” which is already operating in over 100 locations in Moldova, Poland and Romania.
With the Chisinau "smart class" still in its early days, PWJ is working hard to solve various issues, says Rei Doi of the Japanese NGO, which is also conducting a number of other humanitarian aid initiatives in the region, including supplying medical support to refugees and pet food to abandoned pets. One is the difficult task of scheduling lessons when there are over twice as many students as computers. Another is finding coordinators to monitor children as they take classes online. With Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 forbidden to leave their homeland and many mothers having younger children to care for, few adult refugees are available to help.
PWJ hopes to smooth out such teething problems soon, and to set up similar facilities at other shelters in Moldova. SmartAID also plans to introduce more classes, and like PWJ is seeking donations to procure necessary equipment, such as PCs and stationery, as well as teaching staff.
Translation and editing by Tony McNicol
Top page photo by Peace Winds Japan
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