Charlotte Krondorf says that the first inquiries are already coming in from Ukrainian children as to whether they can stay in the coming school year. She directs the Semper-Gymnasium in Dresden. 13 Ukrainian refugees are being taught there so far; they take part in regular classes but are not graded. The children’s school contracts are only valid for this school year until the end of July. At the moment, no one knows exactly what will come next.
In any case, Krondorf wants to do everything for the children whose families want to stay in Germany. “We’ll do it,” she promised the 15-year-old girl from the tenth grade, who wants to come back after the summer holidays. “But then we will also have to grade you in the coming school year.”
113,000 children from Ukraine are currently being integrated into German schools. The federal government assumes that the number of refugees will continue to rise and that a million people from Ukraine could come to Germany. “That would be up to 400,000 young people that we first have to do justice to in the German school system,” said Karin Prien (CDU), Chairwoman of the Conference of Ministers of Education (KMK), Education Minister in Schleswig-Holstein.
So far there is no comprehensive concept for the schooling of Ukrainian children. It’s more like what the president of the teachers’ association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, describes as “messing through”. Some children are integrated into the regular classes, for others there are preparatory or welcome classes. There is no pre-selection according to the children’s talents. Some get 15 hours of German lessons a week, others only two.
“Many colleagues would certainly have more energy if we weren’t at the end of a two-year pandemic,” says Norma Grube, headmistress in Marienburg, Saxony, near the Czech border. Many refugees arrive there because of the geographical proximity to Ukraine. Grube says: “The Free State of Saxony is actually doing everything to organize the whole thing well. The problem is that there is a lack of staff.”
The situation is similar around 400 kilometers further south. “I could immediately hire two new full-time colleagues,” says Bernd Wahl, head of a Munich middle school. “But there are simply no applicants.” He would like to hire a Ukrainian teacher and open a welcome class. “It’s not ideal, because unfortunately the colleague doesn’t speak German,” says Wahl. “But I’m still very happy to have her.”
Wahl has been waiting for the approval of the district government in Upper Bavaria for his welcome class for three weeks now, but so far there has been no placement. Until then, his Ukrainian students attend regular classes and only get two to four additional hours of German lessons. “Of course that’s not enough in the back and front,” says Wahl, “but I what should I do? I just don’t have enough colleagues.”
Teachers’ associations are already warning against glorifying the situation. “We expect that the KMK will openly and transparently explain to the population what restrictions can be expected in the coming weeks and months,” demands Udo Beckmann, Chairman of the Education and Training Association. “The learning groups are getting bigger and individual support is becoming increasingly difficult to afford. The room capacities will also continue to reach their limits, specialist rooms will no longer be accessible.”
A long-term plan is needed, and urgently so. Teacher President Meidinger assumes that 10,000 to 15,000 additional teachers will be needed to deal with the situation. At the Ukraine summit in the Chancellery, he vehemently demanded financial support from the federal government.
According to the Ministry of Education, there is now a close exchange between the Ministry of Education and the Task Force Ukraine of the Conference of Ministers of Education. For the current year, the federal government wants to provide the federal states with one billion euros through an increased share of the sales tax – as a contribution to the costs of childcare and schooling, among other things.
But so far nothing has arrived at many schools. The Semper-Gymnasium in Dresden is a private school; School fees are 200 euros per month. The Ukrainian children have not yet paid these contributions. The Free State of Saxony has agreed to pay the school fees for every Ukrainian child.
Krondorf applied for the money for her 13 students in March and hasn’t received anything yet. “I just hope that it will be paid retrospectively,” says Krondorf. As a precaution, Krondorf financed the fact that the Ukrainian children can take part in the joint trip to the country home at the beginning of June with the proceeds from a cake bazaar. “Financial support is simply essential, otherwise we won’t make it.”
Five of her colleagues are initially giving German lessons to the Ukrainian children on a voluntary basis. Knut Littke, German, ethics and philosophy teacher, is one of them. Littke is a career changer and previously worked as a management consultant. “During the first wave of refugees seven years ago, I started teaching German as a foreign language at a private school in Leipzig,” says Littke. “My students were so grateful and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to become a teacher.” His Ukrainian students are also eager to learn. “They want to learn. They’re just good.”
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