Over 200 Ukrainian refugee children started classes on Tuesday at the first school in Kraków to offer the Ukrainian national curriculum, allowing them to continue their education after fleeing from Russia’s invasion.
The classes for grades 1 to 11 are being held at a primary school in the southern Polish city, which lent it spaces at a nominal cost, reports Radio Kraków. The foundation behind the project is signing a deal with Unicef to cover the salaries of 26 Ukrainian teachers and a principal.
“The children will have all the subjects,” Victoriia Gnap, the president of the Unbreakable Ukraine Foundation, told Gazeta Wyborcza. “Under our agreement with the Ukrainian education ministry, they will receive diplomas.”
An estimated 1.5 to 2 million Ukrainian refugees are in Poland, around half of them children. Kraków has seen its population rise around 20% due to the arrival of refugees. Across Poland, almost 200,000 Ukrainian pupils have signed up to public schools since Russia’s invasion, according to government data.
However, Gnap thinks it is important for Ukrainian students who want to return to their homeland after the war is over to continue Ukrainian education. Some – though it is not known how many – have been able to keep attending Ukrainian classes online while in Poland.
“For them, attending a Polish school would be a break in their Ukrainian education, which they would then have to make up for,” she said, adding that the students at the new school in Kraków will nevertheless have Polish classes.
“They now live in Poland, so they should get to know its language, its people and its culture,” Gnap told Gazeta Wyborcza. “We also want to invite Polish students to our school, so that they can get to know each other and integrate.”
Lessons can currently only take place in the afternoon, from 2.15 pm to 6.15 pm. But the foundation hopes that one day it will be able to rent spaces that would allow classes to start at 8 a.m.
The NGO also runs a similar initiative in Warsaw. There, its classes are hosted by a Polish school named after Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, an Indian maharaja who provided refuge to around 1,000 Polish child refugees escaping the Soviet Union during World War Two.
Six Polish WWII child refugees, now in their 90s, are returning to India, where they were among the 1,000 Polish orphans generously welcomed during the war by the Maharaja of Nawanagar, saving them from Soviet gulags (where many of their parents had died) https://t.co/vN4DmFiFPT
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 9, 2018
Gnap’s foundation says that the school in Kraków will cost around €90,000 a month, including for rent, salaries, meals for the children, and leasing a bus to transport kids to school while their parents are at work. It will sign an agreement with Unicef to cover the teachers’ salaries.
Maciej Żmuda, the chairman of Kraków’s fifth district, where the school is located, believes that the city should financially support schools that decide to make their rooms available for Ukrainian education in the afternoons. He said he will lobby the city council for this to happen.
The Polish government finances places for Ukrainian pupils at Polish public schools. But it cannot allocate funds for Ukrainian schools without an international agreement in place, notes Gazeta Wyborcza.
Main image credit: Adrianna Bochenek / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.