Several fifth-grade students run out of the classroom and run back. He quickly leans over to his classmates and disappears down the hall again. There are numbers on the wall that he has to dictate to his partner. Together they try to calculate the example as quickly as possible.
This is how the mathematics lesson begins at Eden Elementary School in Prague. You can see that the kids are enjoying the activity and everyone is trying to get involved. Today, however, I am here to see how the first children of Ukrainian war refugees join the common Czech classroom. And who would have thought that one of them was the vibrant blond Denis.
“Nine, yeah, zero,” he mumbled some numbers to his classmate. Despite the Ukrainian pronunciation, Matěj understands and rewrites numbers correctly. Denis doesn’t seem to have been there for a few days. He works like any other student in the class.
In math, of course, it’s easier because it’s just an international language. And the language barrier doesn’t matter. Teacher Martina also builds on this.
“It just came to our knowledge at that time. And also what children can do, ”he explains. At the beginning of the lesson, there was a discussion about individual numbers. A catch minor turned out to be eight o’clock. But all Martin had to do was draw a wavy double line in the air, and Denis nodded in agreement. Eight, of course.
The children of refugees from Ukraine are divided into all classes. From first to ninth. A total of 22 of them attended Eden Elementary School earlier this week, but more are reporting.
“I divided them according to age into classes where there is a little more room. At the same time, I tried to have among the children someone with ties to Ukraine. But of course , the more the children come, the less it goes,” says school principal Jana Churáčková. There is a relatively strong Ukrainian community in Prague 10, and there were already three hundred children attending primary schools in Ukraine before Russian aggression.
In fifth grade, where Denis also goes to school, Vanessa is such a little coordinator, because she speaks not only Czech but also Ukrainian. He is also in charge of his second new classmate Daryna. She is a bit more shy than the “sprinter” Denis. However, he replaces his confidence moving around the classroom and down the hall with his deft calculations. She solves math problems on her own, quietly and quickly.
“Each child will need a slightly different approach, but we’ll find out over time,” the headmistress knows.
Parents will organize pencils, slippers and skates
At Eden Elementary School, however, they just try to get the kids into the normal classroom flow as quickly as possible. The director wants to demonstrate it to me during my second year. Which will work, although a little differently than we thought.
The class has not yet returned from skating. No more Ukrainian children, who of course took the children among themselves. This includes necessities such as skates, which Czech parents have arranged for new students. Similarly, mutual solidarity works at school when it comes to other common equipment, such as slippers or writing aids. Eden Elementary School also has its own endowment fund, which has so far covered, for example, trips or outdoor schools for children whose parents cannot afford such an expense. Now, the number of recipients will expand to a group of new classmates from Ukraine.
But these are still the simplest problems. The basis for integration is, of course, Czech. Money from the National Tutoring Plan will also be useful. Although initially thought of catching up after covid, a lot of the schools still had money in the fall, so the surpluses from the second semester of this year will be very suitable for teaching Czech to strangers.
Of course, some issues are also expected. However, the new challenge will not completely surprise the principal and the teacher, especially after the covid. Although there is no need for strength. Not so long ago, full-time, distance and hybrid education alternated chaotically. At Eden Elementary School, he solves a fundamental question about Ukrainian children that every other school faces: how long will newly arrived Ukrainian children stay here and how willing will they be to fully join the ‘team ?
“The first task for us now is for Ukrainian children to calm down in the classrooms, build relationships, in short, feel safe. Once they start looking around, we can start setting goals Of course, some mothers could not answer me if we were their destination, ”explains director Churáčková.
In the early days of integration, however, the fundamental differences between Ukrainian and Czech education are mainly addressed. Despite all the horrors of war and the hardships of refugees, some actually have a strange resolve.
“A mother did not like that we put her daughter in ninth grade, but she should go to tenth grade. We had to explain to her that we are at the most in third grade, “smiles English and geography teacher Julie Drahorádová Compulsory education in Ukraine lasts eleven years.
So far, schools can rely on the methodological guidelines of the Ministry of Education, which the office prepared at the end of last week. At Eden Elementary School, however, they discovered within days that they would have to solve many traps. Some children may have special educational needs, first graders would rather need to attend a preparatory class, but their ability will not be sufficient. To do this, after the spring holidays, the teaching of Czech must really begin.
From Slavia to school
As of March 11, a total of 283 children aged 6 to 15 were registered in Prague 10. More of them were registered in all Czech municipalities and city districts only in Prague 4 and 5. It is based on data from the Ministry of the Interior. Of these, 86 students have already enrolled in 10 schools in Prague by Thursday, such as Eden Elementary School.
“We offer places according to the current place of residence, so that parents and children are as close as possible. We receive applications every day, we are currently dealing with around 20,” explains Deputy Mayor David Kašpar (VLASTA/STAN), who is in charge of education at Vršovice Town Hall. The city district also pays for the children’s meals.
A quarter of the pupils therefore only belong to Eden Primary School. How did they get here when only the first Ukrainian children are welcomed in most schools in Prague? The answer lies around the corner from the Prague school. Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees have found accommodation at Hotel Slavia, mostly women and children. Whether compulsory or preschool. They are supported by the local club Slavia in cooperation with Pražská plynárenská.
“The day after the outbreak of the war, the director of Pražská plynárenská, Martin Pacovský, wrote to me asking whether we were going to embark on a joint project and use the free capacity of the hotel. Of course, we went there , because it is quite natural for us to help those in need,” says Jiří Vrba, Chairman of the Board of the Slavia Sports Association.
On Friday 25th February they started arranging seats for incoming refugees, on Sunday half of the seats in the hotel were taken and on Monday the rest were taken. In cooperation with the police and the city district, all residents were able to obtain visas, they were cared for by general practitioners, who also distributed them directly to their surgeries, schools cared for children , Slavia offered leisure activities. Zuzana Vránová from the Neighborhood Club and Adéla Žůrková, an employee of Pražská plynárenská, but now a full-time coordinator for Ukrainian refugees, take care of all the local staff.
“Our goal is to get by as quickly as possible. First, we provided the basic needs so they could be at peace. Gradually, we want to help them find jobs and, eventually, their own accommodation,” Žůrková outlines the outlook for the coming weeks and months.
At the same time, Hotel Slavia directly associates the difficulties of incoming war refugees with the difficult economic situation in which Czechia finds itself. It’s automatic for the Slavs to rush to help people without a roof over their heads, but at the same time they have to deal with rising energy costs since the fall, which has made the exploitation of sports venues more expensive than the club can afford. manage for the long term.
“In recent months we have been shouting all over the place that the sports club cannot be run in this way. The state has committed to doing this within the year. But the reality is that we are now closed,” adds Vrba.
Thus, there is a real risk that many sports venue operators will not rein in their rising costs and be forced to shut them down. According to the Czech Sports Union, nearly a third of physical education clubs and units were already short of funds for basic activities last year. However, the example of Slavia only shows that there is no contradiction between helping refugees and solving economic problems. This is a related challenge facing the Czech state.