Dozens of schools hit in Kharkiv-Ukraine second city: NGO

Ukraine school destroyed during Russia invasion

Women stand in front of a destroyed school building following a missile strike in Druzhkivka, Donetsk region on August 30, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Photo credit: AFP

The new school year in Ukraine starts on Thursday but dozens of educational facilities in the war-torn country's second city, Kharkiv, have been damaged by Russian shelling, a British charity said.

The UK-based Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), a non-governmental organisation, said it verified 41 institutions that have been "partially or completely destroyed" in the city "under almost permanent" shelling since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Located in northeastern Ukraine just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Russian border, Kharkiv managed to repel efforts by Moscow's forces to take the city, which had a population of some 1.4 million residents before the war.

It has been heavily bombarded throughout the conflict and hundreds of people have been killed, officials say.

CIR said in a report that the shelling of educational facilities "was targeted rather than a by-product of indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure".

The report said "a boarding school for visually impaired students, a 218-year-old university library, a university training pool used by Olympic athletes, and an almost 100-year-old vocational college" were among the institutions targeted.

The shelling "blocked the safe access to specialised equipment for children with disabilities, endangered books that had previously survived World War II, sabotaged Olympic dreams, and interrupted teaching at colleges which have been operational for generations", the report said.

Ukrainian authorities said 2,199 educational institutions had been damaged as a result of bombing and shelling, with 225 of them completely destroyed.

Half of the 23,000 schools surveyed by the education ministry -- about 51 percent -- are equipped with the bunker facilities necessary to begin classes offline.

Those without will teach classes online.

Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov said last month that all the city's schools would start the new academic year online due to constant shelling.

"Thousands of students across Kharkiv are currently deprived of a safe access to education, technical and specialised equipment and vocational training, with no end in sight," the CIR report said.