ITV News correspondent Peter Smith reports on the struggle of Poland's education system to find places for the near one million Ukrainian children who have entered their country
Of the estimated two million Ukrainians now in Poland, almost one million are children. Getting to a safe haven has been the priority. Shelter, food, refuge from the war ravaging their homeland. Now, though, there is the question of how to keep up the education of Ukraine’s displaced children.
In the border city of Przemysl we went to the Markian Szaszkewicz school where they have just taken in 110 new pupils. “It seems the children hear their parents talking about the war,” teacher Luba Pryjma tells me. “Here at school is a chance to forget about all this bad experience. That’s why I think this education is important for them." The Polish government has just changed the law to let schools increase class sizes and accommodate new Ukrainians.
Some children in the new school miss their parents who stayed in Ukraine
Ms Pryjma now has double the number of pupils she had last week. “It is a challenge,” she tells me. “I don’t know the level the new children are at and it will take me some time to get to know them all, but it will be worth it.” Despite fighting a war, the Ukrainian government is also running lessons online for their children in exile. We met 14-year-old Christina Hural from near Lviv, who tells me how she finishes lessons at school in Poland, then logs in to keep up with the curriculum back home. I ask why she is taking on double the workload - surely she has a lot on her mind already.
'I think education is a very important part of my future,' Christina said
“I need to think about my future,” she tells me. “I think education is a very important part of my future.” As is to be expected given the circumstances, the online schooling programme is not without its flaws. Dasha, a 14-year-old budding artist from Kyiv, is sleeping on the floor of a school in Poland but has no access to education.
“The refugee centre doesn’t have reliable internet so I can’t get into my online classes,” she tells me. “Of course it is really hard being left with no education - I want to study.”
Ukraine’s children have already lost so much from Russia’s invasion. Separated from parents; unaware if they’ll have a home to return to. As refugees now, education is their own minor act of resistance - to make sure Putin’s war does not also steal their future.
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