German minister wants to allow refugee teachers from Ukraine to work in schools

Education ministers are discussing how to get children fleeing war in Ukraine into the German education system quickly - and one idea is to allow refugee teachers to work in schools.

A young boy from Ukraine holds a toy in a refugee reception centre in Augsburg.
A young boy from Ukraine holds a toy in a refugee reception centre in Augsburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger wants to see refugee teachers from Ukraine be allowed to work at schools and daycare centres.

The FDP politician said the Russian invasion of Ukraine was forcing people – especially women and children – to flee, and that tens of thousands of refugees were now arriving in Germany. This means that extra daycare and school places are desperately needed.

There will be teachers from Ukraine seeking refuge in Germany who will “want to and be able to help”, Stark-Watzinger told the newspapers of the Funke-Mediengruppe 

On Thursday, education ministers were set to meet in Lübeck to discuss the situation. The aim is to quickly offer schooling to refugee children, said Karin Prien (CDU), who heads up the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the states.

READER QUESTION: How is Germany supporting refugees from Ukraine?

Education ministers have also scheduled a meeting with the Ukrainian Consul General in Hamburg, Iryna Tybinka.

German teacher shortage

In view of the challenge, several education unions are demanding more funding for schools. President of the German Teachers’ Association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, urged for more staff to be hired.

“I can imagine that more student teachers and retired teachers can be recruited for this purpose, because there is an enormous willingness to help in society,” he said. “But the state must also provide additional resources for this.”

Germany already has a well-documented shortage of teachers. Studies show that this will get worse in the coming years. One study commissioned by the Education and Training Association (VBE), predicted that by 2025 there would be a shortage of 45,000 teachers – and this would rise to 81,000 teachers by 2030 if not addressed.

Meanwhile chairman of the VBE, Udo Beckmann, raised other concerns. He said most school staff are not trained for trauma work – and specialist help would be needed.

“In order to best meet the special needs of these children in the current situation, multi-professional teams are needed,” Beckmann told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

READ ALSO: How people in Germany can support Ukraine

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine up until Tuesday this week, more than 2.1 million people – mainly women and children – have fled the country, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 have been banned by the government in Kyiv from leaving due to martial law. 

In Germany, more than 80,000 refugees are known to authorities. But since there are no border controls on the EU’s internal borders, the number is likely to be much higher.

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Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.