The Ovruch kindergarten in Ukraine, which was built with Estonian support, has now opened a new building with four classrooms, providing facilities for a further 80 children. The kindergarten now provides up to 160 children in Ovruch the opportunity to start their education in a safe and inspiring environment.
"Supporting the country and children of Ukraine is the least we can do. It is important that we also send a signal to our partners: a strong and protected Ukraine is a strong and protected Europe," said Estonian Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Eesti 200) at the opening.
UNICEF estimates that more than 5 million children in Ukraine have been cut off from school because of the war, and thousands of children are at risk of losing years of education and social development.
Klen Jäärats, executive director of the Estonian Center for International Development (ESTDEV), said kindergartens and schools provide children with the confidence they need for development, and missing out can have lifelong consequences.
"It is impossible to simply postpone children's education and return to it when other more pressing issues have been resolved. If we do that, we risk the future of an entire generation," said Jäärats. "Therefore, it is especially meaningful that Estonia's first reconstruction project is a kindergarten. We firmly believe in the future of Ukraine and want to give the children of Ovruch the opportunity to learn, play and communicate with their peers in the same conditions as their counterparts in Estonia."
The Estonian government provided €4.5 million in funding to finance the construction of the Ovruch kindergarten. Iceland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Flanders also supported the construction of the kindergarten. The project was managed by ESTDEV in close cooperation with the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture and the Estonian Embassy in Kyiv to ensure the rapid implementation of the project in Ukraine.
The Ovruch kindergarten employs 40 people. The whole team, from the director of the kindergarten to the cooks, was trained in Estonia and received an overview of modern teaching methods and best practices in early childhood education in Estonia. In addition, all the other kindergarten managers in Ovruch and education officials from the Zhytomyr Oblast have received training in Estonia through ESTDEV.
ESTDEV also raised €100,000 in funding from the Estonian private sector to support the kindergarten's construction.
"The construction of the Ovruch kindergarten is the largest public-private partnership project in Estonian development cooperation to date. We are grateful to the Estonian companies Harmet and Nordecon, who worked with short deadlines to quickly hand over the kindergarten to the city of Ovruch. Many thanks also to all the companies who offered their services and products free of charge," said Jäärats.
"With the construction of the kindergarten, Estonia has sent a strong signal that reconstruction in Ukraine is possible and essential to give Ukrainians hope and reaffirm our support to see that the gruesome war shows no signs of abating," Jäärats added.
The Estonian kindergarten in Ovruch is the first educational institution to be completed as part of the reconstruction of Ukraine.
Editor: Michael Cole