French schools faced with challenge of welcoming Ukrainian students

A year after the start of the war in Ukraine, 21,000 children are educated in France. An influx of rare magnitude which has placed the subtocure structures.

by minh dréan

The war in Ukraine and the millions of exiles that she pushed outside the borders have placed French national education in a situation such that she has rarely known. Three weeks after the start of the Russian offensive of February 24, 2022, there were less than 800 Ukrainian students educated in France. Three months later, in June, there were 19,000. One year after the start of the war, there are around 21,000, mainly in Ile-de-France, in the Nice, Grenoble or Montpellier region. More than half of them are at school, 34 % in college and 13 % in high school.

“This is an exceptional wave”, notes Corinne Leenhardt, head of the academic center for the schooling of allophone students (Casnav) of the Versaille Academy, where the number of students exceeded in 2023 the 10 bar 000, including 1,769 Ukrainians. The number of students welcomed continues to increase slightly every month, even if the Ministry of National Education stresses that the pace of arrivals has stabilized since the start of the school year. For the past year, the rule has been to educate students quickly, near their home, and if possible in educational unit for allophone arrivals (UPE2A). Ukrainians represent only part of the more than 70,000 allophone students – whose mother tongue is not French – educated in France, but their massive arrival has exploded the staff of these units.

The ministry acknowledges that “certain somewhat difficult situations have been able to appear punctually due to exceptionally rapid massive arrivals”, but assures that “means have been granted to deal with needs”. In Nice, arrivals have more than doubled since March 2022, they went from 642 to 1,512, which, for example, pushed the academy to open 32 UPE2A posts spread over the first and second degree.

“Off -” staff

In Strasbourg, “we had the double of students but with constant means, it is not manageable”, however denounces Stéphanie Sempere, union delegate Se-Unsa. On the Eurometropolis, 76 files were still pending to integrate UPE2A in early February. The rectorate said that 820 Ukrainian students were educated, which represents 20 % of allophone students from the Academy, and that 10 UPE2A were opened.

“This is not enough,” said the union manager. To cope with the number, voluntary teachers have agreed to learn French (against remuneration) to students who had not been able to integrate the system, either for lack of space, or because no UPE2A was established in the municipalities where families have settled. If M sempere welcomes this “boom in solidarity”, it fears a digging “inequalities towards other nationalities on the equally complicated migratory journey” and which also sometimes struggle to find places.

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/Media reports cited above.