Ukraine to build first underground school to protect from Russian air raids

The school planned for Kharkiv will allow students to study in a classroom ‘even during missile threats’, the mayor says.

Pupils visit a bomb shelter during a training on the start of the new school year in Odessa on September 1, 2022. 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. (Photo by OLEKSANDR GIMANOV / AFP)
Pupils visit a bomb shelter at the start of the new school year in Ukraine's Odesa on September 1, 2022 [File: Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP]

Ukraine plans to build its first fully underground school in the eastern city of Kharkiv to shield students from Russian bomb and missile attacks, the city’s mayor said.

Parts of Kharkiv City, which is located less than 35km (20 miles) from the Russian border, have been subjected to nearly daily Russian aerial attacks, which can strike before residents have time to reach underground shelters.

“We are planning to build Ukraine’s first underground school, which will address the most modern regulatory requirements for protective structures,” Kharkiv’s Mayor Ihor Terekhov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“This shelter will allow thousands of children in Kharkiv to continue safe, in-person education even during missile threats,” Terekhov said.

The mayor did not provide details on when the school will open but noted that authorities in Kharkiv would not reduce spending on education in the 2023-24 period, “despite the lack of funds from the budget”, the independent, Russian-language news site Meduza reported on Tuesday.


While Ukrainian schools in front-line areas have been forced to move online throughout the war, Kharkiv organised some 60 separate classrooms throughout its metro stations before the beginning of the new school year on September 1, creating space for more than 1,000 children to study safely.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Education says that 363 educational institutions have been destroyed and nearly 3,800 damaged throughout the country since the war began with Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Kharkiv, which is Ukraine’s second-largest city, had a pre-war population of more than 1.4 million.

Oleh Synyehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region of which the city of Kharkiv is the administrative centre, said that in the 24 hours to Monday, one civilian was killed and several houses damaged as a result of Russia’s shelling and rocket attacks.

Children study in an air-raid shelter in the cellar of a school after an alarm signal in Kyiv on March 23, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the cellar of a Kyiv kindergarten decorated with bunting and wall paintings of doughnuts and cats, dozens of children are taking shelter during an air raid. The staff try to reduce the psychological impact on children who can barely remember a time without sirens and fear. (Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP)
Children study in an air raid shelter in the cellar of a school after an alarm signal in Kyiv in March 2023 [File: Genya Savilov/AFP]
Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters