We already teach in cabinets, it is said in a school where children from 46 countries go

Foreigners make up about 60% of all students at Staňkov Elementary School in Brno. Children from 46 different countries, including Ukraine, participate, so teachers are used to working with them. Today, the first refugee children are starting to go to school. “Working with Ukrainians will be very similar to any other foreigner,” says school principal Jana Hlaváčková in an interview.

How many Ukrainian students do you plan to admit?

To date, we have accepted 66 Ukrainians, this week we agreed with another 44. Others are coming to us, but our capacity was 110 places, so we are already full. We don’t have room for more students. We will fill all the classes, we will direct some children to our second place of work in Botanická street. We also have classrooms made from the cupboards, we just have nowhere to put other children.

How do some children come to you?

They usually find us somewhere on the Internet, for example on the Ministry of Education website. We have been teaching Czech to foreigners for many years, and already before the war in Ukraine, 110 Ukrainians were educated in our country, a total of about 270 foreigners. That’s why we know him well, and many people are calling or emailing us in the current situation. We also often hear from parents of children who are already coming to us, or from employers of Ukrainians who are looking for places for children who are already working for them.

The children who come to you from Ukraine are in an unfamiliar environment, they encounter a language barrier, and arriving in the Czech Republic must have been very stressful for them. What is most important when admitting these students?

The first thing I told them was that they were safe here and nothing to worry about. I explained to them that they would be in normal classes, that all the teachers were nice and would take care of them, and that other children would welcome them. It was the most important thing for them.

Children were stressed and shocked

Staňkov Primary School focuses on teaching foreigners. Is working with children who now come from Ukraine any different from other students?

Normally we focus on the basics of Czech right from the start. It will be a little different for these children. When a normal and happy child arrives in the family, it is different from the arrival of children from war. They are stressed, most of them were shocked the first day. Some did not sleep, they had come a long way. Many people told me that they came to our school directly from the border. That’s why we try to help new children mentally.

How do you do?

On the first day came a lady from Odessa, who now has her children with us. I hired her as a psychologist, so she helps Ukrainian children in their language. We want the children to forget the terrible stress and what they have been through. However, the situation is gradually calming down. Most families have gradually improved their homes, and the children who came to school today were more cheerful.

Children who have been coming here for a long time immediately took them among themselves. They welcomed them, waited impatiently and helped them. There are more than half foreigners in each class, often with students from ten countries in a class. Today, my ninth-graders said to me, “We don’t have anyone yet, we want one too!” When I told them that a new classmate from Ukraine was going to join them, they were happy.

Jana Hlaváčková, principal of the Staňkov primary school in Brno

What will education for Ukrainian children look like?

Working with Ukrainians will be very similar to any other foreigner. Foreigners come to us throughout the year. They travel from all over the world and usually don’t know a word of Czech. There is usually a language barrier for beginners, so teachers work with them individually. We develop an individual plan for students so that teachers know exactly how to approach these children.

Will you create a special Ukrainian class or will you disperse the students into individual classes?

We normally include them in classes. We have many years of experience with children of foreigners, so we can work with them. We do the classic admission procedure, where they give us passports, we fill out the application for admission and the child enters the class. By having many Ukrainians in each class, the other children talk to them, they help them. We also have other foreigners here, children from 46 different countries come to school.

Everyone has an individual plan

How do you work with children who don’t speak Czech at all?

The teacher will draw up an individual plan for them. It consists in first knowing the language level. Most of the time it’s A0, so no knowledge. Then they are assigned to classes. Czechs and those who already know Czech learn everything, others learn the basics. Above all, the basics of Czech in the material they currently have. For example, when having a natural history, Czech children learn all subjects, foreigners, for example, list body parts. Of course, each teacher must have a completely individual approach to these children.

Are you preparing other children attending your school for the arrival of Ukrainian students?

Of course, we also try to prepare the children who are already with us, the teachers always talk to them about it. But we have children from different countries here, we are used to similar situations and our children do not accept it.

Do you speak to children of war?

You can’t avoid it, you have to talk about it. They usually talk about it among themselves, they are interested in it and sometimes they ask different questions. But there are no problems between them. We also have nine Russians here, but the children don’t deal with politics like adults.

How do you think the new kids will fit into the existing teams?

Children who have been coming here for a long time immediately took them among themselves. They welcomed them, waited impatiently and helped them. There are more than half foreigners in each class, often with students from ten countries in a class. Today, my ninth-graders said to me, “We don’t have anyone yet, we want one too!” When I told them that a new classmate from Ukraine was going to join them, they were happy.

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