Poland pledges school places for 500,000 Ukrainian child refugees who have arrived already

Over 500,000 children are among the refugees to have fled Ukraine for Poland and the figure is continuing to rise, says the Polish education minister, Przemysław Czarnek. He has pledged to ensure that they are integrated into schools and properly educated, while also maintaining standards for existing pupils.

The number of people who have crossed from Ukraine into Poland since Russia’s invasion has now passed 1.3 million. Last week, Czarnek noted that children make up around half of those arriving, and declared that Polish schools were ready to take in hundreds of thousands of new pupils.

Poland pledges school places for Ukrainian children, who make up half of refugees

So far, 24,000 Ukrainian refugee children have signed up to attend classes in Polish schools and their number is increasing rapidly every day, according to the education ministry. Pupils who already speak Polish can join existing classes, while others will have special preparatory classes to help them adapt.

To accommodate the new pupils, the ministry has issued a special ordinance extending the number of students allowed in a single class of grades 1-3 up to 29 children (the previous limit was 25) and in preschools up to 28 children (also up from 25).

Speaking on Wednesday, Czarnek noted that a proposed new law on supporting Ukrainian refugees – which, among other things, will legalise their stay in Poland and ensure the right to education – will further help integrate Ukrainian children into the school system.

Polish parliament approves law on supporting Ukrainian refugees

It will ensure “the most flexible conditions for the authorities to create a parallel system, a subsystem for Ukrainian children that will be least stressful for them and guarantee their education, and at the same time will be the least invasive in relation to the Polish education system and Polish pupils”.

“Our priority is to ensure that children in Polish schools – despite the humanitarian crisis, despite the war in Ukraine, despite the fact that we have already accepted 1,300,000 refugees – can continue their education undisturbed,” said Czarnek.

However, the minister also emphasised that the role of the Polish system is not to take these children long term, as they will in future be “needed by an independent, free and sovereign Ukraine.”

“We are here to take care of them at least for the time being, we are aware that the majority of them or maybe all will return to Ukraine,” he told Polska Times. However, he also stressed that those who decide to stay in Poland will be “welcomed in Polish schools”.

The new law will also streamline the process of employing Ukrainian teachers in Polish schools, said Czarnek, speaking to RMF FM this morning, adding that there are already 11,000 Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking teachers registered in Poland.

In order to support teachers and schools, the education ministry has prepared a set of over 11,000 e-materials for various subjects that are available for free online.

Main image credit: Jakub Orzechowski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

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