Reception courses for war refugees: a school in Berlin welcomes Ukrainian children

Welcome courses for war refugees

As a Berlin school it welcomes Ukrainian children

Mon 21/03/22 | 15:18 | Of Carla Spangenberg and Jenny Barke


Audio: Inforadio | 21/03/2022 | Jenny Barke | Image: rbb

The first reception courses for Ukrainian refugee children and young people will begin this Monday in Berlin. This is also the case with the Humboldt Community School in Prenzlauer Berg. Carla Spangenberg And Jenny Barke accompanied the new classmates.

It is an unusual image that pupils and their teachers present in the schoolyard of the Humboldt Community School this Monday morning. Together they stand in a circle and wait. They form a welcoming committee that wants to welcome new classmates.

They arrive with their mothers shortly after eight. Nine and eleven-year-old brothers Stas and Tanya shyly approach the group. They don’t speak a word of German, but the school has prepared itself. Director Judith Bauch reads some welcome words in Ukrainian: “Laskavo prosymo! Ya dyrektora.”, She says, which means “Welcome! I’m the director.”. Then her voice breaks. Her belly is excited.

250 welcome classes provided

It is thanks to the efforts of parents and teachers that on Monday in his school there are lessons for Ukrainian children who have fled the war. “It was actually the parents of this school who welcomed a Ukrainian family and asked me if the child could go to school here.” Enrollment in the school office was not bureaucratic.

Soon, Berlin is planning 250 welcome classes with a total of 2,750 places for Ukrainian children and young people. “According to the current state, it is possible to organize a total of 102 reception classes in primary schools and 45 reception classes in secondary schools,” said Education Senator Astrid-Sabine Busse (SPD) on Thursday.

Twelve of these places are now available at Humboldt Community School, with only three children starting school this Monday. The concept: Ukrainian children learn German together for two hours a day, the rest of the time individually in their respective classes. This already works well for refugee children from other parts of the world, the school already has a welcome class for children from Afghanistan, Syria and Moldova.

Ukrainian children in a German school.  (Source: rbb)
Image: rbb

German books and precious stones as welcome gifts

Brothers Stas and Tanya are among the first Ukrainian children to attend the welcome class at Humboldt Community School. They don’t understand German, but after the director’s prepared words, further conversations are translated into Ukrainian for them. The school is lucky: a teacher of Ukrainian origin has just returned from maternity and is helping the children to start school this morning.

The brothers come from Kiev, Stas awaits normality after the terrible escape. His favorite subject of his is math, he says, because it’s the simplest and the teachers at home have praised him for it. What he likes about Berlin are the playgrounds and the many places where you can go for a nice walk. After the welcome greeting, there are also gifts for Stas and Tanya: their future teacher distributes German books – and there are precious stones.

“Together everything becomes easier”

Precious stones are the symbol of community in the school: each stone is different, as is each student. But everyone is united in being different and can learn better together. This is the motto of the school, explains the director Bauch: “Because everything we do together becomes much easier”, the Ukrainian teacher translates into the mother tongue of the children.

Learning together, helping each other, being there for the children who have escaped – this was also the wish of the Berlin schoolchildren who are now bringing Stas and Tanya to their class, explains their class teacher. Curiously, children ask their siblings for their favorite book and favorite sport. Stas likes football, he is well received. Then they all draw a picture together on the blackboard showing the TV tower in Berlin, with the Ukrainian and German flags flying over it.

Ukraine asks for Ukrainian CV

But there are also criticisms from Ukraine about the rapid integration into the German school system: the Ukrainian consul general Iryna Tybinka asked that children and young people continue to be educated according to the Ukrainian curriculum in order not to lose their identity. Director Bauch can understand this desire, but she also points out that no one knows when the war will end.

“We do not know if and when the children will be able to return to their old structures, to their homeland”. The teachers’ goal is therefore that children feel safe in Berlin, that they find friends to play with and that they learn German in order to communicate better.

The principal encourages schools to have welcome classes

The school now wants to see if it can integrate the contents of the Ukrainian learning platform into the curriculum of the children of the new welcome class. Because anything that offers them support in this difficult situation is welcome.

The principal would also like to encourage other schools to open a welcome class, even if space and staff are scarce. “So this openness, this willingness to say: ‘Yes, we get closer together in times of crisis’, I would like to encourage him. Because here we have an educational mandate, even for children from other countries”.

Broadcast: rbb evening show, March 21, 2022, 7:30 pm

Contributed by Carla Spangenberg and Jenny Barke

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