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“In the meantime, around 40 percent of people want to stay here longer”

The mass exodus of over a million people from the Ukraine poses major challenges for the already strained school system in Germany.

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“In the meantime, around 40 percent of people want to stay here longer”

The mass exodus of over a million people from the Ukraine poses major challenges for the already strained school system in Germany. Since the start of the Russian war of aggression, German schools have taken in more than 200,000 refugee children and young people from Ukraine.

Numerically, North Rhine-Westphalia (38,000), Bavaria (29,000) and Baden-Württemberg (29,000) have the most Ukrainian students. In relation to the other number of students, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony are at the top of the federal states willing to accept them. The Media Service Integration presented correspondingly prepared figures from the Conference of Ministers of Education on Tuesday.

It was a matter of course for the education ministers to quickly take in the victims of the war of aggression and integrate them into the schools, said the President of the Conference of Education Ministers, Schleswig-Holstein's department head Karin Prien (CDU). The countries could have used the structures from the previous refugee crisis. “Based on our experience from 2015/16, we were able to react very quickly here. We have built up a lot of intercultural competence over the years.”

Initially, most of the federal states initially taught the refugee students in so-called welcome, preparatory, bridging or intensive classes. In the meantime, however, many schools have started to integrate the students into the regular classes if they speak sufficient German, according to the media service's survey of the ministries of education. In Brandenburg, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Thuringia, the Ukrainian pupils are generally learning together with the others in regular classes this school year.

In Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Bremen, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, they are initially taught separately, but have joint lessons in subjects such as music, physical education or English. There are different models in Bavaria, Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony-Anhalt. Bavaria, for example, integrates the younger children into regular classes right from the start, while the older pupils initially attend bridge classes.

At first, many refugees sat on packed suitcases and were not very interested in integrating their children into the German school system, said Natalia Roesler, spokeswoman for the Federal Parents' Network of Migrant Organizations (bbt). Many would therefore have attended the online lessons in Ukraine at the same time. “In the meantime, about 40 percent of the people want to stay here longer. The willingness to integrate is growing.” Despite the fact that schooling is compulsory, many children are still not going to school because there is a lack of school places, staff and rooms.

According to research by the media service Integration, the capacities in some federal states are so overburdened that refugee children cannot yet attend school. In North Rhine-Westphalia, a good 1,000 children were still waiting for a school place at the end of October, and Berlin was missing 1,600 school places. "For almost all federal states, the biggest challenge is that there is a shortage of teachers," the report states. “Some lessons took place outside of the schools, or classes were increased. In Brandenburg, for example, youth clubs were rented in order to have additional space available.” Several states also reported that many children also attend Ukrainian lessons in the afternoon, which is a high double burden for the students. In addition, many children and young people are psychologically burdened by the war and have traumata.

In order to teach the children in the best possible way, all federal states have hired additional staff. 3,000 Ukrainians have meanwhile also found jobs in schools – but mostly not as teachers. In order to make trained teachers fit for the German school system, they are now given adaptation training courses, said Prien.

Juliane Karakayali, migration researcher at the Evangelische Hochschule Berlin, criticized the "patchwork" in the schooling. "There hasn't been any greater standardization here in recent years." In many federal states, the preparatory classes are not very formalized without a fixed curriculum and therefore represent a kind of parallel system within the school, which leads to separation and stigmatization. Far too little has happened here since 2015, criticized Karakayali. "It is hardly acceptable that we repeatedly have to fall into a mode of ad hoc solutions that the students then have to pay for."

"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, among others, or directly via RSS feed.

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