• One year after the beginning of the war in Ukraine, "20 Minutes" is more than ever mobilized to inform you about the conflict. From 22 to 28 February, the editorial team offers reports, analyses, testimonies, videos, podcasts to report on the daily lives of civilians, the military situation on the ground, the diplomatic game.
  • This Thursday, on the eve of the first year of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, "Minute Papillon!" went to a Parisian school to see how Ukrainian children who arrived in France in 2022 are welcomed.
  • In the UPE2A class, there is no specific curriculum, oral expression and freedom of speech are privileged. The memory of the conflict is never far away. "We see escaping glances or noises outside that startle students," says one teacher.



In front of the map of the world hanging on the wall, the young Sasha can name all the countries of Europe. And their leaders. "He's a very politicized Ukrainian child," says UPE2A professor Freddy Ferchaud. Arriving last year, Sasha, like the other Ukrainian children present in this school in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, was integrated into this special class.

UPE2A for "Pedagogical Unit for Newly Arrived Allophone Students": classes specially created to supervise students who do not speak French and settle in France. For the majority of Ukrainians, this passage in France is supposed to be temporary. The goal remains to return home at the end of the conflict. "I have a student who keeps telling me, 'When it's cleared, I'll go back,'" says school principal Laura Gedin. In the meantime, and because French law requires children up to the age of 16 to be educated, young Ukrainians are integrated into French schools.

A transition class

The main objective of these UPE2A units remains the same for all allophones: to give the keys to understanding the French language to enable them to follow in ordinary classes. Upon arrival, the children's language skills are assessed. From the results, a schedule adapted to their needs is created for them. It determines the hourly rate spent in UPE2A class, and the rate they will spend in regular class.

"At first, we introduce them to music or sports lessons," explains the school's director, who updates the schedules every week. And quickly, we try to make them spend as much time as possible with children their age," she adds. "My three Ukrainian CPs who arrived in September are almost totally in regular classes today," she says in this podcast of Minute Papillon!, to listen above.

This rapid adaptation of the children is explained by the assiduous and quality schooling they have received in Ukraine. "In mathematics, they are well above our students," says the principal. For reading and writing, you have to switch from Cyrillic to cursive writing, but overall it goes well. »

"Drawings of bullet-riddled houses"

In March 2022, the Parisian school was mobilized to support Ukraine. First, collections of materials. Then, in May, Laura Gedin welcomed three refugee children to her school. They are now ten, from 6 to 11 years old, arrived over time, and with very different backgrounds.

"We don't necessarily know their entire history and migratory journey," explains Freddy Ferchaud. When a child is from eastern Ukraine, we suspect that he has seen things... For the teacher, who has been working for several years with refugee populations, children should not be locked into this migratory history. "We individualize [our] relationship, in relation to the children's experience. We are attentive, but that does not mean that we focus on it, he comments. So as not to lock the child into this identity, which is not their identity. »

This UPE2A class must be "their space", according to the teachers interviewed in this podcast, in order to allow children to think about something else. No specific school program: here, oral expression and freedom of speech are privileged. Even if the memory of the conflict is never far away. "We see glances that escape or noises that take place outside that startle students," says Freddy Ferchaud. Work on the building next door to the school next door continues to disrupt Sasha.

The trauma of these children remains visible to teachers. "It was very complicated at first," says Nicolas, head of extracurricular activities at the school. They have a lot of anxieties, and it shows on their activities. Drawings of bullet-riddled houses, war scenes, weapons... "There are some who startle at the slightest noise or who are afraid of the photographer's flash," says Laura Gedin.

Uneven care?

To help them overcome this trauma, the Academic Center for the Schooling of Newly Arrived Allophone Students and Children from Homeless and Traveller Families (CASNAV), has recruited a psychologist. "She herself is a refugee," explains Emmanuel Deschamps, director of CASNAV. She works full-time with Parisian institutions to listen to them in their native language. I can tell you that she has a lot of work to do. »

This device is well received by the school director and teachers. But Freddy Ferchaud wonders: "I want to say, very well what is done for the Ukrainians, why has it not been done before for other refugee populations? For Afghans, for Congolese or for Iraqis? »

In addition to this psychological care, CASNAV has also set up other initiatives. French classes open for parents in Parisian schools, Ukrainian language courses taught by teachers who are also refugees, which take place in Parisian establishments. A device that already exists for some languages, such as Italian or Arabic, but not for all. For the Ukrainian population, the objective is to provide them with a solidarity welcome while being aware of their desire not to break with their country.

"There are means that have been put into welcoming Ukrainians that have not been put for others," observes Laure Gedin. When they go to the school checkout, for example, they get the fare right away. There or for other families, you have to negotiate, call the social worker, etc. My question, as the principal of a UPE2A class, is: "How do I welcome all my students and how do I welcome them well?" she emphasizes. After that, school can't do everything. ». Listen to this report for free in our audio player above.

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