First week in class a success for Ukrainian pupils

The first week since the admission of more than 1,300 Ukrainian war refugee children to Latvian schools has been successfully completed, reports Latvian Radio. More than 300 younger refugee children have started attending kindergartens.

Mother of two Maria Vasilyenko is from the Ukrainian city of Dnipro but is now in the northern Latvian city of Valmiera. Maria's children have spent their first week in Valmiera Primary School, and they are excited about the experience.

"My daughter has shown me books where she is already learning to write in Latvian. She has also shown her math. She has told me what interesting handicrafts they do in their creative lessons. My children like everything a lot, and they continue to go to school," Vasilyenko told Latvian Radio.

She has particular praise for teachers who have integrated the children into Latvian-language classes: "There are practically no language barriers for the children. If they need something, they are helped by other children and teachers. There are no difficulties in communication, and that is a big plus."

Valmiera has already admitted more than 80 children from Ukraine, nine of whom are studying at Valmiera Pargauja State Gymnasium.

According to gymnasium director Agita Zariņa-Stūre, refugee children are given extra help to allow them to study the Latvian language, with additional online Ukrainian assistance, but study most subjects alongside their fellow students.

Most of the Ukrainian arrivals so far are in Rīga, where 800 children are studying in schools. Most of them are educated in minority schools, which offer additional foreign language options, but more than 200 are in Latvian schools.

Inga Vanaga, the head of the Latvian Trade Union of Educators and Researchers (LIZDA), told Latvian Radio that although teachers had faced a few additional problems, the first week of lessons  was a success.

Vanaga said: "We can speak very highly of the staff of educational institutions, because they have responded to the support and provision of the educational process very, very quickly and without even waiting for some regulations. They have been guided by the real situation."

However, overwhelming demand means Riga Ukrainian school is no longer able to take in new students, and in some cases the necesary paperwork and funding is struggling to keep up with the rapidy-evolving situation. In addition more support staff are needed for both families and students, to provide psychological and moral support.

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