Meschede, Brilon and Olsberg schools are preparing for Ukrainian children

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Of: Daniela Weber, Stefanie Schummer


The welcoming of children and young people of Ukraine is not only what the pupils of the Petrinum high school want, who are giving a signal of peace. © Private

The war brings great suffering to the Ukrainian people. Millions of them flee. The first war refugees have already arrived in NRW. The number will continue to grow. Among the refugees there are also many children who will go to school here. The SauerlandKurier asked around some local schools how they are preparing for the admission of Ukrainian children.

Meschede / Brilon / Olsberg – Petrinum Gymnasium in Brilon, St. Martinus Primary School in Bigge and St. Walburga Secondary School in Meschede have already thought about how to integrate war zone children into daily school life and what special challenges schools will face as a result .

Are Ukrainian children already in school?

In Brilon on Monday, the school department sent two Ukrainian children to the Petrinum Gymnasium. “As a school on Tuesday, we contacted the family to be able to receive the two brothers at the Petrinum in the next few days,” says vice-principal Svenja Möhlmeier. The situation is different at the St. Martinus primary school in Bigge and the St. Walburga secondary school in Meschede. There have been no investigations so far.

How are schools prepared for refugee children? Is there already some kind of concept?

“First of all, we want to give a warm welcome to Ukrainian children and young people, to make them acclimatise after the stressful experiences of war and flight and to allow them to get used to their new environment more easily”, explains Svenja Möhlmeier (Gymnasium Petrinum Brilon ). . The first priority is learning the German language so that children and young people can take part in classes as soon as possible and establish new social contacts. “At the same time, it is about giving them security and a bit of normality, structuring daily life and maintaining the educational processes of children and young people”, continues Svenja Möhlmeier.

Integration plays a crucial role. St Martinus Primary School principal in Bigge, Ellen Frigger, reports: “Up until now, pupils have been integrated directly into the classrooms of our school. They attend regular class lessons and are usually assigned to a class based on their date of birth. If children have not yet attended school, they are sometimes downgraded and taught in their younger years. This is always an individual decision that depends on the child in question and his circumstances ”.

Can schools benefit from past experiences (e.g. the 2015 refugee movement)?

As a result of the refugee movement in 2015, schools have already been able to acquire a wide range of experiences. For example, materials and textbooks for teaching the subject “German as a second language / foreign language” were purchased for the admitted students at the time, which will now be used more intensively, all the schools interviewed report.

I am sure that even in the current situation, our students and their teachers will organize special campaigns to welcome Ukrainian children and young people into the school community and quickly break the ice.

At the Petrinum gymnasium, a tutoring system and various recreational activities of the “Petriner for Refugees” working group facilitated the arrival of new pupils. “I am sure that even in the current situation, our students and their teachers will organize special campaigns to welcome Ukrainian children and young people into the school community and quickly break the ice,” said the vice principal. It is motivating that students who came to high school during the refugee movement in 2015 now speak good German, are fully integrated and successfully attend high school. “In 2018 we were even able to celebrate the successful completion of the Abitur with an immigrant student.”

The teachers of St. Walburga-Realschule have not yet had any experience with refugee children in their school – not even in 2015: “However, we are in close contact with the other schools sponsored by the Archdiocese of Paderborn and can therefore contact us immediately if necessary, from which the scholastic experiences of children and young refugees benefit ”, underlines the vice-principal Claudia Heitkamp-Kappest.

What challenges (or opportunities) arise from welcoming children from Ukraine?

“It is always a special challenge and also an opportunity to bring children of another mother tongue and who do not know German to school, especially if they come from a war zone and are possibly traumatized,” explains Ellen Frigger (Bigge Primary School ). While language barriers can initially be overcome “with hands and feet”, if necessary, greater challenges may lie in strengthening the psychological and social well-being of runaway children and young people. “The loss of family and friends, the feelings of homelessness, the concern for those left behind, the fear of the future: these are just some of the aspects that could affect children and young people, depending on their individual situation”, adds Svenja Möhlmeier (Gymnasium Petrinum).

In principle, every child admitted is an opportunity for the school community. Regardless of where we come from, we learn with and from each other.

For Claudia Heitkamp-Kappest (St. Walburga-Realschule), there are also opportunities, despite all the challenges: “Basically, every child admitted is an opportunity for the school community. Regardless of where we come from, we learn with each other ”.

How many students could the schools host?

At the Gymnasium Petrinum, this depends, among other things, on age. Grades 5 to 7 currently consist of 29 to 31 students, so further special needs admissions would be difficult here. Additionally, five classrooms are currently unavailable due to renovations.

St. Walburga secondary school is already reaching its limits. “The classes are full, the space capabilities are almost completely exhausted.” There were also staffing difficulties caused by the corona pandemic and long-term absences of teaching staff. “Times are difficult and require a lot of us all. So far, however, we have faced every challenge as far as possible, “says Heitkamp-Kappest.

What is the NRW Ministry of Education planning?

Ukrainian school children should be integrated as quickly as possible. In other words, they are normally accepted in existing school classes. The NRW Ministry of Education predicts that more space will be needed in many schools. And above all: more teachers. That is why retired educators, Ukrainian teachers and students should help.

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