The school shows how the integration of Ukrainian children can be creative success

Werk-Realschule Bopfingen: This school shows how the integration of Ukrainian children can be creative success

Thursday, 03/24/2022, 09:33

The Werk-Realschule Bopfingen welcomes all the older children of Ukraine in their region, from the fifth to the tenth year. There they should be taught centrally. The school developed a concept for this in a very short time. This shows that one thing is needed above all for the rapid integration of children: creativity.

FOCUS Online: Mr. Wolf, you are the director of the secondary school in Bopfingen. Older children in Ukraine are not initially distributed among all schools in your region, but are initially taught centrally in your school. Why?

Lars Wolf: Last week we received a phone call from a family in Bopfingen asking if we could teach Ukrainian children with us. The family had gathered acquaintances in Ukraine and taken them privately. As we were close to the school and the age was right, we immediately decided that the children could come to us.

Word quickly spread to the city. The municipality then got in touch and organized an exchange with the other two schools in the country, a lower secondary school and a high school. It was therefore decided that children who fled Ukraine should first be educated centrally in our school and not be divided between different schools. Our school was able to draw on the experiences of 2015, when many refugees from Syria or Afghanistan arrived in Germany.

Based on this experience, they have now developed concepts for lightning-fast integration. How do these appear?

Wolf: Fortunately, we quickly received the support of a woman who was a teacher in Ukraine. She came to Germany with her husband in 2014 when Crimea was annexed by Russia. Since she has lived here for seven years, she speaks German so well that she can teach Ukrainian children German. At the same time, we hired a woman who, while not a teacher, speaks Ukrainian and also has an English language diploma. She takes care of the English lessons.

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We have now incorporated the help of these two women into our concept. Its basic structure is simple: children who fled Ukraine are divided into our existing classes according to their age. In these main classes, children take part in subjects that are not so strongly determined by the German language. These include arts, crafts, sports, music, home economics, and technology. If language-intensive lessons such as history are planned, children are sometimes taken out of class and offered German and English lessons in small groups. A pedagogical specialist from the adult education center also provides support here.

How did you get the funds for the two Ukrainian teachers approved so quickly?

Wolf: A little creativity was needed. There is a teaching program in Baden-Württemberg. Funds may be requested every six months for external forces such as parents or sports coaches who, for example, offer GAs (working groups). Although the application cycle for the current semester had already passed, the external teachers of our school spontaneously gave up their funds in favor of Ukrainian teachers. Fortunately, the country doesn’t care who gets the money.

In addition, I have written to all the charities in our area and contacted our active support association at the school. Thanks to Corona, he was able to spend less because there were fewer events and visits to otherwise subsidized school camps. As a result, we have now collected a little basic security for the first 300 hours of school. For the new school year we need to see how we can continue to finance Ukrainian teachers. Nor is it a question of large sums here. The two Ukrainian language teachers are currently supporting us for the minimum wage. Of course, it would be ideal for us if Ukrainian teachers could be employed by the country in the future.

How many children from Ukraine do you expect anyway?

Wolf: To date, we are teaching 13 refugee children from Ukraine, with another 200 students. This will increase even more in the coming days, but we can easily integrate up to 30 children into our daily school life. There are about three children in each class.

What challenges do you currently see in everyday school life?

Wolf: We have many children of Russian origin in our school. Many of them are ashamed of the war that their country started in Ukraine. At the same time, there are also some students who support Putin’s policies. Here we are currently getting into the classes more and try to avoid comparisons by providing information. Thankfully it has worked so far.

Furthermore, the children we welcomed into our school fled their home country relatively early. Of course, the experiences of escaping and being separated from family members were also very stressful for them. Fortunately, however, everyone was spared enormous violence and atrocities. However, we are currently preparing for the suffering experienced by children who have fled Ukraine will increase in the coming weeks. We therefore want to help even more with psychosocial offers in the future.

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How do you prepare your students for the arrival of children from Ukraine?

Wolf: The vice principal and I went to all the classes and talked to the students about their worries and fears. We also presented our concept to them. For many, however, our approach is not new, as we have already welcomed refugee children from Syria or Afghanistan into our classrooms. Many of the students in our school have experience of escaping from themselves.

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