Some Ukrainian children want to learn in the Lithuanian language: Minister promises to create conditions for this

People at the railway station in Lviv. Photo Kovalchuk Victor UNIAN

Since the end of February, more than 10,800 children have arrived in Lithuania from war-torn Ukraine. 1.5 thousand of them have already registered in the country’s schools, according to the Minister of Education, Science and Sport Jurgita Šiugždinienė. She said that Russian-speaking schools are filling up fastest, and there are hardly any vacancies, Andresa Repšytė writes in tv3.lt news portal.

She said that Ukrainian children could choose to attend Lithuanian or national minority schools, but there may be a shortage of places in the latter. The situation in one of them, the Russian-speaking A. Pushkin gymnasium in Kaunas, is the most difficult. There is only one place left.

“This means that this school will not be able to accept any more children, but we do have about 30,000 places for children in Lithuania,” the Minister told journalists on Friday during a visit to the Alexander Pushkin School in Kaunas.

“We definitely have about 30,000 places for children all over Lithuania. Currently, there are about 8,000 children who have already arrived (today 10.800 – editor), and there are about 1,500 children who have already registered in schools. But there are certainly more because not all schools have registered,” the Minister added.

When asked about the language of education in the schools, she pointed out that some of them had expressed their wish to learn in Lithuanian.

“We offer state schools, and we offer Lithuanian schools. Also, if the parents want, if they can choose national minority schools,” she said.

The biggest challenge in integrating foreign children into Lithuanian schools in the language, especially for the final year pupils. Still, the Minister also stressed that it is not new in Lithuania to teach children who do not speak the official Lithuanian language or English. “It is definitely about methodologies. We have a methodology centre in every district, we have a Lithuanian home in Vilnius, and they give consultations every day and help teachers.”

Earlier this week, Ms Šiugždinienė also announced that several opportunities are being considered for Ukrainian graduates in Lithuania to take their final exams.

“We are looking at three options. One is that our Lithuanian exams are translated into Ukrainian, and the children take our exams. We understand that it is not easy. Still, we also understand that they want to finish school,” said Ms Šiugždinienė.

The Minister said that knowledge of the Lithuanian language could be important for Ukrainians to continue their studies in Lithuanian higher education institutions and to pursue broader career opportunities. 

When asked by journalists whether it would be possible to allow a team of Ukrainian teachers to work in the Ukrainian programme, Ms Šiugždinienė said this could be possible.

“It could be a private school, and we will certainly help if there are such initiatives. And we know that not only are there such initiatives, but there may be private schools that want to come here, so we will create the conditions,” she said.

On Friday, she indicated that graduates might be allowed to take Ukrainian exams remotely at the Ukrainian Embassy.

“We are analysing this situation, and if there is such a possibility, they will certainly be able to take the exams in Ukrainian,” she said.

According to the United Nations, more than 3 million refugees have fled the country since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

According to the Lithuanian authorities, some 25.000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived since the war, of whom around 10.800 are minors.

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