War refugees: More than 193,000 Ukrainian students in Germany

war refugees
More than 193,000 Ukrainian students in Germany

Elementary school students from Ukraine sit in a classroom in Dresden.  Photo: Robert Michael/dpa

Elementary school students from Ukraine sit in a classroom in Dresden. photo

© Robert Michael/dpa

Schools and teachers in Germany have been shouldering a major additional task for months: tens of thousands of children and young people who have fled Ukraine are to be integrated.

More than 193,000 children and young people from Ukraine have been attending schools in Ukraine since the start of the Russian war of aggression Germany been recorded. What has so far seemed to be working relatively quietly from the outside poses great challenges for the institutions and teachers, as the education unions and teacher associations of the German Press Agency confirmed. In her opinion, the problems that already exist due to the shortage of teachers are getting worse.

The Conference of Ministers of Education (KMK) reported the number of refugee students registered at schools in Germany Ukraine on Thursday with 193,141, 2242 more than in the previous week. The federal states report the numbers to the KMK on a weekly basis. So far, most students have found accommodation in North Rhine-Westphalia (36,558), Bavaria (29,014) and Baden-Württemberg (26,573).

The numbers have risen steadily since the beginning of the war in February and after the summer holidays made a significant jump again due to new registrations. There are a total of around eleven million schoolchildren in Germany.

Staff and rooms are missing

Many complaints have not yet been heard about the admission of such a large number of new students in such a short time. Of the Education and Training Association (VBE), which claims to represent the interests of more than 160,000 educators as a trade union, speaks when asked about “hardly to be solved challenges” at the schools.

“A lack of space, a lack of teachers and a lack of support from other professions, for example in dealing with trauma, mean that successful integration is hardly affordable despite the great commitment of the teachers,” said Udo Beckmann, the chairman German press agency. For example, there has been almost no communication between refugee students and teachers for weeks and months because there were no interpreters or volunteers.

The Education and Science Union (GEW) also pointed to problems: for the many Ukrainians registered at schools and daycare centers children and young people lacked pedagogical specialists and suitable rooms, said Chairwoman Maike Finnern of the dpa. “Currently, school-age children often have to wait months for a place at school or they only get a limited range of educational opportunities. This makes it much more difficult for the refugee children and young people to integrate.”

The German Teachers’ Association said that the admission of the Ukrainian children and young people would exacerbate the shortage of teachers and indirectly lead to reduced hours and the cancellation of additional offers for all pupils. It’s not about assigning blame, “but that’s the real situation,” said association president Heinz-Peter Meidinger. “Politicians should be honest enough not to sugarcoat this emergency.”

Teacher shortage often only exacerbated

According to Meidinger, 12,000 to 14,000 additional teachers would be needed for 200,000 additional students. The Ukrainians who work or help out in German schools only cover a fraction of the need. A survey in the federal states in September showed that around 2,700 teachers and assistants from the Ukraine are currently employed in Germany.

According to Meidinger, the situation in the schools is different. “The mood among the school administrations varies between pride at having secured the supply and having found new school staff, to real despair at being largely left alone with the problems and the lack of resources.” It’s not usually about the money for additional staff, it’s about getting them on site. The problem of finding enough teachers also existed in Ukraine before the war.

The President of the Teachers’ Association described it as positive that the welcoming culture and receptiveness at the schools and within the school families are still unbroken. He also spoke of the great motivation and willingness to make an effort on the part of many Ukrainian children and their parents. “We have received reports of cases where young people, even in pre-graduation classes at grammar schools, have managed to catch up within months despite initially having a complete lack of German language skills.” School sports teams were literally “revived” due to new classmates.


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