Primary school principal Maria O’Regan learned a lot about the refugee trauma when some Syrian children came to her school after being forcibly evicted from their country.
The trauma does not last weeks and months afterwards. That’s something we need to think about as leaders,” she said.
It’s a lesson she will bring to bear as her school opens its doors to more children Ukraine next Monday.
Holy Family, a 167-pupil co-educational school in Tralee, Co. Kerry, is preparing, like many schools across the country, for the influx of students fleeing the war.
The school had one Ukrainian student before Easter and the director doesn’t know how many more to expect, but works with one of the regional teams set up to manage the educational placements.
As she prepares to welcome her new students, Ms O’Regan said: “We will do everything we can to help. We will take care of these children and take care of them. We will try to protect them as best we can from whatever is going on.”
She also spoke about how the experience would teach her students empathy.
“That’s how they learn. They know what’s going on in Ukraine – now they have someone in their class to look after and help them with their English lessons. It’s great for Ukrainian students to come to our schools and it’s great for our students.”
She said her focus until the end of June will be looking after the well-being of the children. “We want them to smile and go home with a few new English words at the end of each school day.”
While hundreds of primary and secondary schools enrolled about 4,000 Ukrainian students ahead of Easter, many thousands more are expected when schools reopen after the break.
Ms O’Regan met with the local team from the Regional Education and Languages Team (REALT) last week to discuss how many vacancies she has and is awaiting feedback on the expected number. “We have capacity in the junior end of school but very limited availability from third through sixth grade,” she said.
Tralee alone welcomes hundreds of Ukrainian refugees at local hotels and a community center, and the regional REALT team works with schools across the region to house students and set up support such as transportation if needed.
Ms O’Regan is a school leader’s representative at the Irish National Teachers’ Organization (INTO) annual conference, which will today discuss an application seeking sufficient support for schools to cope with the expected influx.
Support sought by INTO includes English teachers, back-to-school liaisons, counseling services, funding for textbooks and other materials, and teacher training. Now Minister of Education Norma Foleywho will speak at the conference today, suggests that Ukrainian should be one of the languages tested by schools as part of an initiative to promote language learning.
The Say Yes to Languages pilot is aimed at students in third through sixth grades, and a school can choose a language based on its demographic and school context. She said it could be used to support the integration of newly arrived Ukrainian students by recognizing Ukrainian as one of the languages of instruction or by teaching Ukrainian throughout the eight-week module.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/we-will-look-after-and-mind-these-kids-we-will-protect-them-from-what-is-going-on-41564664.html “We will take care of these children and take care of them. We will protect them from what is going on.