How do educational institutions engage with Ukraine?
The crisis in Ukraine is causing much destruction, uncertainty, and casualties. The refugees who make it to Belgium deserve the best support possible. Especially children who suddenly find themselves without any education. Education can be a stepping stone for children and young people. A glimpse of 'normal' life. Brussels has a lot of experience in welcoming foreign-speaking children and therefore plays an important role in receiving Ukrainian children.
Nikita Vos, Coordinator of Information Point Primary Education, tells us more about how various measures at educational institutions make it as easy as possible for Ukrainian refugees in terms of education. Some examples of those measures:
Additional staff was deployed at NARIC, an institution based in Brussels that can validate Ukrainian diplomas so that they are accepted in Belgium. The CLB in (Brussels) schools receive additional training and manpower so that CLB workers are able to recognize and support trauma in Ukrainian newcomers. Schools that take in Ukrainian refugee children and students will be compensated. One school that takes in Ukrainian children is, for example, Tutti Frutti in Sint-Gillis.
Anse Reyntjens, a 25-year-old, young professional from Brussels, was interviewed. She is responsible for the after-school care at the multilingual school Tutti Frutti. At the school, there was already a Ukrainian child, and now her family fled Ukraine and is seeking asylum in Belgium. The children of this family now also attend the school. Anse notices a lot of solidarity between the Ukrainian children who were already at the school and the children who came to the school because of the war. Without instructions from her or the teachers the children began drawing the Ukrainian flag and talking about "bad" Putin. The subject is very popular with the children because they talk about it constantly. The children can give the events of their homeland a place in a childlike way through drawings and conversations with peers stresses Anse.
“As an Urban Engaged University, VUB stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”
The VUB, Vrije Universiteit Brussel does not want to stand on the sidelines aimlessly either. They set up initiatives to contribute both educationally and to the basic needs of the refugee Ukrainians.
The VUB panel debate: peace for Ukraine, with Prof Dr. Romain Meeusen, was filmed and put on YouTube. After watching this video fragment it was made clear by the professor that VUB wants to help every student, no matter what they look like or where they are from. That is why VUB is working on preparing all the facilities for the coming academia and students. There are already a few requests to finish their Ph.D.’s at a European university. VUB also joined the #ScienceforUkraine where all university communities can add all kinds of offers to help in the academic world.
Lastly, Daria Ezerina, a student at VUB explains how she came up with her initiative to give sandwiches to refugees. She told us that a Facebook post led her to groups called “Solidarity for Ukraine (Belgium)” and “Help Ukrainians at the Brussels Registration Office and communes”. On these pages, she learned that local authorities hadn’t had the time yet to properly react to the sudden large numbers of incoming refugees to organize their registration properly. People had to queue in front of the registration office on the Boulevard de Waterloo for hours starting from as early as 2 am without even the basic facilities: food and water. Someone took the initiative to invite people to bring food there using posts on Facebook and Daria responded to one of them. Daria says she had done charity before in her birth country, Greece where there were always refugees from various conflicts. Daria mentioned that the VUB was quick to respond to her initiative and immediately offered facilities in the restaurant such as big fridges, a room, cutting boards, and knives. Colleagues from her department responded immediately that they are willing to help and even those who could not join, made donations to cover the costs of the sandwiches and snacks. She also stresses that people can easily join an initiative through Facebook.
“There are a lot of things to be done, starting from simply handing out food in queues and sorting donations at Expo 11 to hosting to organizing free Dutch and French courses or something to entertain the children.”