Education Ministry: Ukrainian refugees should seek schooling outside Prague

The Czech government is working to increase school capacities but spaces in big cities will still be scarce.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 11.03.2022 14:47:00 (updated on 11.03.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees means more space will need to be created in Czech schools.

Prague and Central Bohemia in particular have long experienced shortages of space for 3-year-old children whose parents want to place them in kindergartens (mateřská školka). Space is limited in primary schools as well.

Other Czech cities also were already close to school capacity before the current influx of refugees, mainly women and children, from war-torn Ukraine.

Czech Education Minister Petr Gazdík has now assured Czech parents that they needn't worry about there being space for their children in kindergarten (mateřská školka) or primary school (základní škola). Solutions are already being worked on to increase capacity so that all can access education, he said.

Nonetheless, Ukrainian refugees are being advised not to seek spaces in schools in Prague and the immediate vicinity due to limited options for increasing capacity. Gazdík has discussed the situation with Ukrainian Ambassador to Prague Yevhen Perebyinis.

Under the current system, children should be enrolled in schools in the catchment area where their family lives. For many Praguers, this means their city district. For example, a family in Prague 2 would enroll their children in nursery and elementary schools in that district, even if a school in Prague 1 or Prague 3 was closer.

“We are trying to inform [refugees] that there is a problem in Prague with getting their children into kindergartens and schools. The Ukrainian embassy advises them, if they want to place their children in school or kindergarten, to look outside Prague and the surrounding areas when considering places to settle,” Gazdík said yesterday.

Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic, also has little space for additional children. “There are no capacities for accepting Ukrainian children in Brno’s kindergartens, so we want to go the way of children’s groups. The city and private institutions will set them up for Ukrainian children. We are currently inspecting areas where children’s groups could be established,” Brno City spokesman Filip Poňuchálek told news server Seznam Zprávy.

Children’s groups (dětské skupiny) are non-commercial childcare services for children from the age of six months until the start of compulsory schooling.

New rules for increasing school capacity should be defined in a special law that will address measures for refugees from Ukraine. Gazdík said that the new rules would simplify the situation in schools as much as possible for principals, parents, and students. The Chamber of Deputies is to discuss the proposals in a regime of legislative emergency, so they could come into force later this month.

“Increasing capacity is, of course, possible even without a change in the law, by standard procedures where there are the right spatial conditions,” Education Ministry spokeswoman Aneta Lednová said.

According to her, changes could be made to buildings' designated purpose, allowing them to be used for education. Capacity at existing school buildings may also be slightly modified within the framework of the law, she added.

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The Education Ministry currently stipulates a maximum of 24 children per kindergarten class, 30 pupils in primary and secondary school classes, and 15 in preparatory classes at primary schools.

Gazdík has previously stated that schools in the Czech Republic can integrate around 100,000 refugees. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said yesterday that the number of refugees from Ukraine now in the Czech Republic is approaching 200,000, of which more than half are children.

Radio Prague reported that so far about 1,250 refugee children have enrolled in Czech schools, and about 200 more register daily.

Some classes are now taught in the Ukrainian language by native speakers, but capacity for those classes is limited. The classes, taking place in Prague and Brno, combine children of different ages. Teachers and children can register through a website established by the Children of Ukraine Refugee Endowment Fund.

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