Ukrainian children must be taught in intensive classes. The language barrier must be overcome so that integration can happen as quickly as possible.
Hochtaunus – Countless peace posters of very different designs adorn the “peace fence” at the Gluckenstein General School (GaG). “This is our message, with which we would also like to greet the children who have fled Ukraine and come to us”, explains director Ursula Hartmann-Brichta. The GaG is currently hosting seven children who have arrived in the Hochtaunus district from Ukraine. “Two more investigations are still pending,” Hartmann-Brichta reports.
However, the new students have not yet settled into everyday school life. “This is because they are still waiting for a visit from the school doctor,” says Hartmann-Brichta. When the refugees arrive, they are admitted to the so-called intensive classes. A linguistic obstacle is that some only know the Cyrillic alphabet. “It’s all a big challenge, but we already have the right teaching materials,” says the director. “We will also be able to cope with this situation in terms of space and personnel,” he points out. “We already have three intensive classes in our school that are there to ensure integration is successful.” That’s why even the GaG has a limit. “If we take the nine children now, it means that at most two more children from Ukraine could come to us later.”
Preparations are in full swing
There have been children in school for a number of years who have experienced war and flight. “Some of these students are now reliving their traumatic experiences,” she says. “This also means that we are acting reasonably in view of the current issue.” Why: “These students know what is needed now when it comes to refugees from Ukraine,” says Hartmann-Brichta. Under the umbrella of the GaG, students from 46 nations learn together.
As for the “arrival”, explains the director, there is a difference: the children from Ukraine arrive here immediately. Refugees from other countries, such as Syria, sometimes spent two years in a refugee camp before arriving at the GaG. “So we have children in our school who have been through horrible things. That is why it is very important for us to approach this situation carefully.”
Two girls (14 each) and a boy (11) arrived at the Kaiserin-Friedrich-Gymnasium (KFG) last Monday. “In total, the school authorities have assigned us eleven children, who gradually arrive and begin their daily school life in one of our two intensive classes,” explains Principal Jochen Henkel. This means that the seats in the intensive classes of the KFG are also full. They were founded in 2015 under the impression of the refugee crisis of the time, says Henkel. A maximum of 16 children are taught there at a time.
Sponsors will help new classmates
In the children’s timetable there are 20 hours of remedial German lessons per week. “The language barrier is the first that Ukrainian children now have to overcome, because children speak almost exclusively Ukrainian, some speak some English,” says Henkel.
The principal of the KFG is confident that the concept at the KFG will continue to develop in the coming weeks. “First of all, we gave each child a sponsor from our student body, who helps with the little everyday things,” he explains. There are students at KFG who also have their Ukrainian roots, have been studying there for a long time and now support the integration of their new classmates.
In some cases, some students also have the option to continue attending classes in their home school via the Internet. “We will see how to manage and divide it”, says the director of KFG. “Because first of all they come to us to learn German well.” Henkel would also like refugee children and their mothers to be given the opportunity to receive psychological care once a week. “Unfortunately, we cannot hire staff overnight, but we are in the process of establishing contacts in this regard.”
The Humboldt school has now also received the first pupil assignments from Ukraine. “We assume that we will be able to train an intensive class by 4 April at the latest,” says director Carine Kleine-Jänsch. “As soon as the supply of teachers is assured, the lessons can begin.”
New start in the German school system – offers as soon as possible
What is the procedure when school-age children arrive in Germany from Ukraine? “Ukrainian refugee children and young people should have opportunities in school as soon as possible,” says the state education authority. The first point of contact for Ukrainian refugees is the reception and advice center of the respective school authority. “As soon as children and young people are registered with the resident registration office, they are entitled to school,” explains Christine Stanzel of the state education authority for Hochtaunuskreis and Wetteraukreis. After the counseling session, the school authority puts you in contact with the host school, with whom the student’s future school career is discussed. “At secondary level, they are taught in intensive classes, where the focus is on learning the German language,” says Stanzel. In the primary school sector, this path is also the first choice. “But since there are no intensive classes in all elementary schools, the requirement applies that children be enrolled in a school close to where they live,” she says. As soon as a child is registered and has passed the health check by the school doctor, she goes to the school assigned by the school authorities. About 400 Ukrainian students are currently registered in the districts of Hochtaunuskreis and Wetteraukreis. “The situation is dynamic,” says Stanzel. “We don’t know what will happen next.” But she, she assures her, there are still enough places in the schools.
The Ukrainian government is demanding that incoming students be able to continue their usual lessons in digital form, reports Philipp Bender of the press office of the Hessian Ministry of Education. “The idea is that there are also many teachers among the refugees who could offer this service,” says Bender. According to the ministry, this request is now under consideration. “We will see how we can find a balance between our system and the interests of Ukraine.”
Children and young people from Ukraine arrive in a “very efficient system”, Bender points out. “Because language support in the form of intensive lessons has existed for many years.” Alone: The current situation is already different from 2015, when large numbers of people from Syria or Afghanistan arrived in Germany. “These people want to be with us, the mothers and children who now come to us from Ukraine want to return to their country of origin as quickly as possible.”