Why are so many Ukrainian children not attending school in Czechia?

A portion of the Ukrainian child refugee population in Czechia is missing out on formal education because there aren’t enough school places for them. Schools and kindergartens are already bursting at capacity, especially in the capital.

Photo illustrative: Ivana Bernáthová,  Czech Radio

Jana Frojdová is headmistress at an elementary school in the Prague 10 district. It has been forced to down five applications from Ukrainian refugees in the last six months.

“We are very sorry about it – but there was no other way. We have already increased capacity from 400 to 460, and we can’t increase it further due to health and safety regulations. But we have an agreement with other schools in Prague 10, so if a place becomes free in one of them, they let us know which grade – third grade or seventh grade or whatever – so we know where else we can direct applicants to if we haven’t got space for them ourselves. But there have been situations where there simply wasn’t a free place anywhere.”

The situation is similar in schools and kindergartens all over Prague and the Central Bohemian Region, says the non-profit organisation META. According to data they collected from the various Prague districts, there are 650 Ukrainian refugee children in the city who haven’t found a place at any school and are not in formal education as a result.

Photo illustrative: Václav Plecháček,  Czech Radio

Programme director at META, Kristýna Titěrová, says that in comparison with the other V4 countries, integration of Ukrainian children into Czech schools is going well. But she thinks that preparatory Czech language classes should be set up for Ukrainian pre-schoolers in Prague who haven’t found a place at a kindergarten, where they would learn Czech for about six months before starting regular classes. Such integration classes already exist for older children, funded by the Ministry of Education – but she says they are often badly organised.

“In Prague this affects 430 children. There isn’t a proper curriculum, we don’t know who is teaching there or what the classes are like, so we obviously can’t monitor the quality. And what’s more, the children don’t have the status of being in formal education, they’re not going to school, and that’s been going on for a long time, since the start of the war, and that’s a problem.”

Photo illustrative: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

Titěrová says that the current integration classes could be used if a plan for teaching Czech was established and the quality of education was supervised. But the Ministry of Education is not planning any changes, says spokeswoman Aneta Lednová.

“At the moment, integration classes are being implemented according to the rules for subsidy calls from this January, and during the implementation period the rules are not going to change. Integration classes are primarily intended for the first 90 days of a newcomer’s stay in the Czech Republic, to help them adapt to their new environment.”

The City of Prague is also trying to resolve the situation and has established a working group to deal with the integration of Ukrainian schoolchildren and increasing the capacities of schools. However, the coalition talks to form the new city government, which dragged on for five months, rather slowed matters down.

Authors: Anna Fodor , Eva Šelepová
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