The Lagoa group of schools, which includes kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools, has already received 20 Ukrainian students and expects to welcome more in the coming weeks.
Getting familiar with the Portuguese
"When they arrive at school, they are often with family or friends they are staying with, who do the translation, but sometimes we have to use digital translators to talk to them," said the principle of Lagoa group of schools, Emília Costa Vicente.
Despite the language barrier, schools are doing the best they can and the children are doing very well and feel integrated. “Kids understand each other very well,” she said.
Every week, the government is issuing new guidelines to schools. One of these new requirements is the mandatory learning of Portuguese, which the government has identified as one of the main priorities for these students. "We focus on learning the language so that they can better integrate into the Portuguese school system. Overall, our goal is for the children to be happy," she said. Also, the work of the schools has borne fruit. "More and more are now able to say some Portuguese words," Emília told The Portugal News.
In addition, from kindergarten to high school, this group of schools has more than 300 students of different nationalities, including Ukrainian. Furthermore, it has been possible to integrate these students into classes where there was already a Ukrainian student to make the integration easier by allowing them to chat to someone who speaks their language.
Integration into classes
Primarily, for each student, the school does an assessment with their parents, or guardians, in order to understand the situations they have been through and the level of trauma they are facing.
Subsequently, for a week, "they attend all the classes to get to know their colleagues. Then, we create a specific timetable for these students in which we take them out of the subjects they go to and don't understand a word (like history, physics and chemistry) and we focus on teaching Portuguese".
Children and young people arriving at Portuguese schools after having fled the war in Ukraine can continue to take online classes in Ukrainian, which allows them to complete the school year they are in.
According to Emília, there are kids who are learning through online Ukrainian lessons, which is highly recommended for those youths who are planning to apply to university for the following year.
"These students arrive as refugees. This means that they don't have any documents to prove their educational level, and we can't do equivalences without these documents. That is why we suggest that in some situations they finish the school year in their own system so that they can then apply for a university degree with their certificate," she said.