Ukrainian children go to school in Saxony

KShortly after the start of the lesson, at half past nine, the door of the classroom opens and Andrei enters. The ten-year-old rushed to the middle row and sat on the second bench. His 18 classmates are already there, they are between ten and 16 years old, sitting with their backs straight and their arms parallel on the table in front of them. A large Ukrainian flag is drawn in chalk on the blackboard and a triangle, ruler and three large maps of Europe, Germany and Saxony hang on the wall.

Stefano Locke

Correspondent for Saxony and Thuringia based in Dresden.

This Monday is the first day of classes for all of them here and Olena Fedorets, the teacher, wants to know where the children come from. Immediately the hands fly up, one after another city names like Dnipro, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lemberg and Schytomyr echo in the room. The children have been in Dresden for three or four weeks at the most. Three of them remained with relatives along with their mothers, two with acquaintances. Others talk about long train and bus journeys and having already moved into an apartment or room in a boarding house.

“We are in Germany,” says Fedorets. “Which German-speaking countries do you know?” he asks. Immediately his hands are raised again. Austria and Switzerland call children in Russian. This is the teaching language, they agreed with their parents a few days before when they met.


“Capital: Berlin”: Ukrainian teacher Olena Fedorets teaches German to refugee children.
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Image: Stefan Locke

“Russian is the everyday language in Ukraine,” says Fedorets. “This is the easiest for everyone.” The children also speak Russian to each other. Fedorets is a German teacher and comes from the Ukrainian Zaporischschja. She is 48 years old, she married a German and came to Dresden three years ago.

So far she has been teaching German as a second language to people from a wide variety of countries, but when she saw how many of her compatriots had arrived as refugees in the past few weeks, she applied for a place in the Saxon school service and was promptly hired. She is now a teacher at the 55th high school in southern Dresden, a mighty neoclassical building near the university. For the time being, the country has created 200 jobs for Ukrainian teachers in order to quickly provide the many displaced children with classes and a kind of daily life.

It broke up on the day of the attack

According to the Saxon Ministry of Education, 89 Ukrainians had already been hired on 11 April, both runaway teachers and Ukrainians who had lived in Germany for a long time. Their qualifications had not previously been recognized, which is always a problem in other professions as well. “We have to be faster in recognizing qualifications,” says Saxony’s Minister of Education Christian Piwarz (CDU).

Nearly 2,800 students who fled Ukraine are already attending school in Saxony, most of them public schools. Many other Ukrainian school children are learning from home with materials made available online by their Ukrainian schools. So far 25,000 war refugees have arrived in Saxony, of which over 80% are women and children. There is mostly space in rural schools, but many would like to stay in cities.

First steps: Self-made teaching material lies on a table for Ukrainian school children in a welcome class at Trudering Gymnasium


First steps: Self-made teaching material lies on a table for Ukrainian school children in a welcome class at Trudering Gymnasium
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Image: dpa

The children of the Fedorets class did not see the war on their own. “Many went west and then overseas on the day of the attack,” says the teacher. He doesn’t want to talk about warfare in the classroom, but the kids know it. When asked what they want to do when they grow up, five of the boys sitting across from her say “join the army.”

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