“We play, we go out, we teach them basic phrases.” Paris school helps Ukrainian refugees iROZHLAS

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, more than one and a half million children have fled Ukraine because of the war. Some EU countries, such as Czechia, Slovakia or Poland, are slowly integrating Ukrainian children into schools. Other countries, such as France, are still preparing systematic training for the youngest refugees from Ukraine. But the schools already offer them a refuge and a space where they can relax, play and learn the first phrases of the new language.




Paris

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Volunteer Adele (in yellow vest) and Ukrainian children Photo: Martin Balucha | Source: Czech Radio

“We came from kyiv. With a husband from Canada and two children. Before the war started, my father, who is from the Kherson region, came to see us. Then we all went to France. tired. We only drove through Ukraine for three days and three nights. We ate and slept in the car, “describes Olga. The little girl is playing with the doll, and the ten-year-old boy is in the hotel room .

Listen to a report on a shelter for young Ukrainian refugees in Paris

“On the first day of the Russian invasion on February 24, I woke up at five in the morning and heard explosions and planes. We were terribly scared. We wanted to leave kyiv right away, but for six hours , we just sat in the car and waited in convoys. I was worried about the kids and if we had enough gas. I didn’t want to be in the car overnight, so we drove home “, he continues.

Another attempt to leave the Ukrainian capital was more successful. Olga went west with her family and through Lviv they reached Poland and continued to Germany and France.

Here they have already managed to arrange a temporary stay for six months and still live in a nearby hotel: “We don’t know how long we will have to stay here. Dad wants to go home, mom is still in the Kherson region “We’re worried about her. But now we can’t get her out of there. The Russian army came on February 24. They killed so many people, including refugees, who wanted to run away.”

Only a temporary solution

Olga goes to primary and kindergarten in Eva Kotcheverová with her children, because they have space and toys here. There are several tables in the class, the other children are drawing, they are putting together puzzles. French children have drawn arrows for Ukrainian refugees, which guide them to classes where they can learn.

“We play, we go out, we try to distract them a bit. We also teach them basic French phrases so they can say what their name is and how old they are,” explains Adéla from the Paris City Hall. She helped in a reception center for Ukrainians nearby, where there is no more place for them, so they sent her here He understands with the children, even if he does not speak the language. Ukrainian nor Russian. They use mobile applications for translation.

Ukrainian children also go out to the schoolyard, where they play basketball. They become sharper each time an airplane passes overhead. They shouted самолёт in Russian (Russian aircraft, note. writing) and educators teach them in French.


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“Our town hall and I quickly prepared three classes in which we could receive Ukrainian children. We wanted them to be here again and play here until they found accommodation and papers,” says Christine Serra, director of the Eva Kotchever primary and nursery school in the Paris suburbs, says the school now offers the maximum to Ukrainian children.

But this is only a temporary solution. Ukrainian children will have to integrate the French education system. He is likely to go to classes and schools specializing in the reception of children who do not speak French.

“In France, there are classes for non-French-speaking children with teachers who have the necessary education. They can gradually integrate into classes where the language does not play such a role – for example, with prolonged teaching physical education or mathematics, if these subjects suit them better,” he explains.

There are around sixty nursery and primary schools in Paris which welcome non-French-speaking children. There are a few more in second year. About 20,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in France so far. But the government is ready to accept up to five times more.

Martin Balucha

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