More than 20,000 Ukrainian refugee children in schools

Berlin By the end of last week, 20,205 children and young people who fled Ukraine had already been admitted to general and vocational schools across Germany. This was reported by the Conference of Education Ministers (KMK).

But the number is set to increase: more and more people are fleeing the Russian invasion abroad, especially women and children. Many of those who are already here are not yet registered. The teachers’ association is preparing for up to 250,000 school-age children from Ukraine.

Refugee movements encounter an overloaded system. This is “generally still under severe stress after two years of Corona and due to digitization,” said KMK president, Schleswig-Holstein minister Karin Prien (CDU), the Handelsblatt. “However, for humanitarian reasons and for our historical responsibility, we will obviously do everything possible to ensure that Ukrainian schoolchildren can receive a good education here.”

The integration of children and young people is already more coordinated and rapid than in 2015 and 2016, when hundreds of thousands of people came from Syria and Afghanistan. Among other things, the Conference of Education Ministers has set up a task force which meets twice a week. At the same time, there are already various offers from private providers offering Ukrainian lessons.

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CDU politician Prien still thinks it is “completely unrealistic to build a parallel Ukrainian school system here for perhaps hundreds of thousands of children and young people.” The large majority must therefore be integrated into the German school system.

In this way it also rejects the request of the Ukrainian Consul General Iryna Tybinka, who opposed the admission of children to the “reception” and “integration” classes that have been established since 2015 for immigrant children of different origins and in which initially they are separated from the others and they mainly learn German before moving on to regular lessons.

Ukrainian lessons as a supplement

These classes “would create a wall of misunderstanding, a sense of inferiority and little social protection for Ukrainian children,” Tybinka said. Instead, ways should be found to give children a “Ukrainian education”.

Most federal states currently rely on these “welcome classes”. In principle, all children and young people should be given the opportunity to learn German, if only because “it is completely open when they can return,” said KMK President Prien. Unlike a few years ago, however, it is now clear that foreign language lessons, including Ukrainian lessons, can be a good supplement.

Federal Minister of Education Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) sees it similarly. The goal must be “a good balance between integration into our educational system and preservation of the Ukrainian identity”, you told Handelsblatt. “We hope that children and young people will be able to return to their homes in the near future, but we also need to be prepared to stay with us longer.”

Even before the outbreak of the war, the KMK’s “Permanent Scientific Commission” (SWK) demanded that refugee children be admitted to schools very quickly. This means “a piece of normality and at the same time prevents subsequent inequalities between children and young people with and without a refugee background”.

It can be assumed that 25 to 35 percent of children who fled Ukraine suffer from severe mental stress, the scientists write in their most recent statement. SWK President Felicitas Thiel stressed the importance of attending a nursery and school: “We know from research that, in addition to family, positive contacts with people of the same age are important protective factors.” children.

Education politician Prien hopes for teachers among Ukrainian refugees. When registering people, the profession must also be registered urgently. Furthermore, the federal government must “create the legal basis for Ukrainian teachers to be recruited quickly without a recognition procedure: it must be possible to hire someone today for next week”.

According to Federal Minister of Education Stark-Watzinger, federal states can hire such teachers as assistants at any time. Since Ukrainians are generally allowed to work, there is no need for regulation. A survey by the Handelsblatt shows that many countries have already launched competitions and hired individual teachers.

More Handelsblatt articles on refugees from Ukraine

So far, the information for the refugees themselves has not been optimal: the central assistance portal “Germany4Ukraine” contains basic information on residency, job opportunities, accommodation and medical care, but not a word on schools or daycare centers. It is mainly women and children from Ukraine who come to Germany.

The Federal Ministry of Education only provides information in German and English on its “Information for refugees in Ukraine” page. The ministry also emphasizes compulsory schooling: “All children aged six to seven must go to school.” However, since compulsory education and access options are regulated differently from state to state, refugees should ask the “school authority at their place of residence” whose rules applicable to them are valid.

It is also unclear whether children can go to school or daycare before they are even registered, which can take a long time. In Baden-Württemberg, for example, it is said that children are pragmatically admitted to kindergartens and schools without registering. The same is true in Hamburg, Thuringia, Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.

Bremen precedes a health examination. Schleswig-Holstein announced that compulsory measles vaccination for school children could be compensated for. Hesse, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, on the other hand, accept students only after registering.

Moreover: Escape from Kiev: “Will I ever see my husband again?”

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