Ukrainian children in Romania struggle amid teaching assistant shortfall

10 oct., 2023

When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, millions of refugees – mostly women and children – fled to neighboring countries seeking safety from the war. Around 85,000 of them remain in Romania, where they benefit from the European Union’s temporary protection scheme. 

But as the war drags on, providing the thousands of refugees with basics such as housing and schooling is fraught with challenges, says Anna Potri, a Ukrainian who has been living in the Romanian city of Galati since before the war.

Last year, Potri helped set up the Ukrainian schools in Romania foundation, which aims to cater to the thousands of children living in the country who have been displaced by the conflict.

“We (tried) to solve all problems,” Potri, who heads the foundation, told “(We) looked for premises, sponsors, and donors to create schools, (buy) stationery, textbooks, and other things — it was on the shoulders of activists and volunteers.”

As of May this year, the school foundation has helped set up more than 30 educational centers around EU member Romania, which so far have catered to the educational needs of about 5,000 Ukrainian children.

But Potri, who runs a facility in Galati that currently caters to about 50 children, says that logistical problems are growing and that bureaucracy is hampering their efforts: only half of the 30 schools they’ve set up so far, are currently operational, she said.

Under Romanian legislation, Ukrainian children must be enrolled at either a Romanian school or alternative facility for their parents to receive government aid. But Potri says that not all of the Ukrainian hubs she has set up have been officially recognized by the local authorities.

“Not all of the hubs in Bucharest were approved, but here in Galati there were no problems,” Potri said.

Many Ukrainian parents who fled the war anticipated the conflict ending sooner and had hoped to return home. But the war has dragged on longer than many anticipated and there is little hope of it ending soon.  

As such, many Ukrainian refugees throughout the 27-nation EU, including Romania, have started attending local schools, where classes are often held in languages they don’t know. 

“Children who end up in Romanian schools do not know the language and find it difficult to adapt to the classroom,” Potri said. “They don’t understand the material, don’t communicate with classmates and the teacher doesn’t have time to explain.”

To try to overcome the language difficulties many Ukrainian children face, some headteachers at Romanian schools have requested that Ukrainian teaching assistants who speak English or Romanian come in to provide help. 

“The (assistant) teacher … can help students cope (better) with the tasks,” Potri said.

But Potri says there is a shortfall of assistants available who can speak both languages. The foundation is now preparing a petition that they plan to send to the Romanian Ministry of Education with requesting more Ukrainian teaching assistants.

Maria Reshetnikova, a mother of two sons ages 9 and 14 from the city of Golaya Pristan in Kherson region, fled Russia’s invasion to Bulgaria in the wake of the war but later moved to neighbouring Romania when she learned of the Ukrainian school in Galati. 

“I understood that it was important for my sons to continue their studies,” said Reshetnikova. “Unfortunately, the senior classes at the Ukrainian school in Galati did not open this year. My youngest son is in fourth grade, and my eldest is studying at home online at school in Ukraine.”

But Reshetnikova and her two sons are holding out hope that one day, when the war is over, they can return to Ukraine. 

“The (Ukrainian soldiers) who are now dying on the battlefield are doing it for future generations, defending our independence,” she added. “As soon as there is an opportunity to return to Ukraine – me and my sons will.”

Edited by Stephen McGrath
Photo: Facebook/ Anna Potri

Despre autor: Taisiia Bakharieva

Avatar of Taisiia Bakharieva
Taisiia Bakharieva este o jurnalistă din Kiev, Ucraina, care acum locuiește în România. Este în media din 1994 și a lucrat pentru agenția de presă RATAU, ziarele Kray și Vseukrainskie Vedomosti și ca redactor-șef al departamentului de cultură al ziarului și al site-ului FAKTI. Taisiia a intervievat numeroase personalități din Ucraina și este autor și prezentator al secțiunii de televiziune TV-FAKTI. După ce Rusia i-a invadat țara, Taisiia s-a mutat în România și s-a alăturat echipei CONTEXT. Munca ei se concentrează acum pe investigații privind crimele de război ale Rusiei în Ucraina și realizează interviuri cu victimele și martorii terorii rusești. Este de multă vreme membră a Uniunii Jurnaliștilor din Ucraina.

Leave A Comment