Schools and daycare centers in Berlin have to be prepared to take in many more Ukrainian children than has been the case so far. “We assume that significantly more children and young people will register after the Easter holidays,” said Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) on Tuesday after the Senate meeting. Firstly, not all refugees registered in Berlin are taken care of, secondly, new ones are added every day, explained Giffey and spoke of a “big challenge”.
In fact, in the week before the Easter holidays alone, 600 children who had fled Ukraine were registered for school. A “sudden increase”, Giffey reported and took this as an indication “that the next phase is now coming”. After the first weeks of the war, the main focus was on accommodating the refugees, now their integration is coming to the fore. “That will change a lot in the next few days, we assume that,” said Giffey.
By the beginning of the Easter holidays, a little less than 2,000 children had been integrated into the operations of the around 800 schools across Berlin; 892 of them in welcome classes, 1024 in mainstream schools. Giffey added that the number of refugee children cared for at the city’s day-care centers is currently around 4,000. There, as in the schools, the following applies: “We can do it by moving closer together.” Giffey thanked the employees for their solidarity.
Education Senator Astrid-Sabine Busse (SPD) agreed in an interview with the Tagesspiegel. “We still have room for improvement, mainly thanks to the solidarity in schools and daycare centers,” explained Busse. She emphasized the great helpfulness of everyone involved, but also explained: “I am convinced that more will come.”
According to a spokesman, the Senate Department for Education has asked general and vocational public schools and the school authorities to name their possible room capacities. School places are still available. In addition, a first tender for welcome teachers has been issued, further measures will follow.
300 refugee teachers want to help
Almost 30 teachers from Ukraine have already been recruited to work in welcome classes, the spokesman explained. According to Giffey, around 300 Ukrainian educators have so far registered for teaching. Involving them as quickly as possible should help to overcome the foreseeable bottlenecks.
Markus Hanisch, spokesman for the GEW education union, called for the recognition process to be accelerated and for additional tenders for teaching staff to be made. Not only in the schools, but also in the responsible authorities, the staff must be strengthened, Hanisch demanded. This is the only way to ensure that all those who now want to help in schools and daycare centers can get in there promptly.
Planning is made more difficult by the fact that even seven weeks after Russia attacked Ukraine, no one knows exactly how many refugees are currently in Berlin. So far, 44,000 people have applied for a residence permit, and 35,000 people have applied for help from the social welfare offices, Giffey said on Tuesday.
The head of government assumes that there will be significantly more refugees in Berlin. Around 3,000 people are currently added every day, and a few hundred are usually distributed by bus every day. The situation report of the social administration also explains that the exact number of refugees staying in Berlin cannot be given “reliably”.
Accommodation at the exhibition center becomes a reserve
On Tuesday, 1167 places were available to accommodate arriving people. The 900 spaces previously reserved on the exhibition grounds are no longer used. They are retained as a reserve.
Even without exact numbers, it seems clear: Berlin has taken in significantly more people than planned according to the Königstein key – the distribution principle of the 16 federal states. Giffey explained that not everyone could stay, nationwide distribution was needed.
Exceptions apply to people with family ties, pregnant women before childbirth or if there is an employment or training contract. Physically and mentally handicapped people should also be allowed to stay in Berlin beyond the specified quota of five percent of the nationwide registered refugees.