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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Germany to boost military cooperation with Sweden and Finland amid NATO Bid

Germany will ramp up its military collaboration with Sweden and Finland as the two countries seek NATO membership in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Germany to boost military cooperation with Sweden and Finland amid NATO Bid

“We will intensify our military cooperation, especially in the Baltic Sea region and through joint exercises,” Scholz said amid concern for the two candidates’ security during the transition period to NATO accession.

“It is already clear that our countries are bound together by an obligation to provide each other with all possible assistance and support for mutual protection” as members of the United Nations and the European Union, Scholz added.

“Both countries can always rely on our support, especially in this very special situation,” he said.

READ ALSO: Russia ‘using energy as weapon’, says German government

Germany has been hiking up military spending and changing decades-held policies in the wake of the war on Ukraine, which began when Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24th this year. 

READ ALSO : Zeitenwende: How war in Ukraine has sparked a historic shift in Germany

With Moscow pressing its assault in eastern border regions of Ukraine nearly three months into its invasion, Helsinki and Stockholm are poised to give up decades of military non-alignment over fears they could be next.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson confirmed on Monday her country would apply to join NATO, a day after Finland — which shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia – said the same.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose war has sparked global outrage, said the move poses “no direct threat for us… but the expansion of military infrastructure to these territories will certainly provoke our response”.

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told a meeting of the alliance in Berlin on Sunday that it would “look into ways to provide security assurances including by increasing NATO presence in the region” during the transition period.

“Finland and Sweden are concerned about the interim period… we will try to speed up that process,” he said.