Ukrainian bilingual schools in Manitoba getting ready to enrol children fleeing conflict

Ukrainian bilingual schools in Manitoba say they think they are well-positioned to help refugee children as they settle into their new homes in the coming weeks. 

There are 11 schools in the province with English-Ukrainian bilingual program schools, where students are taught the curriculum in both languages. 

The hope is that having them enrol in these schools will make it easier for them to get used to living in Canada, said Paulette Monita, president of the Manitoba Parents for Ukrainian Education, a non-profit dedicated to promoting and expanding the English-Ukrainian bilingual program in public schools.

“It will be such an easy transition for them to fit into our school system. They will have the ability to speak in Ukrainian, up to 50 per cent of the day, their teachers and their peers will understand them. There won’t be that language barrier,” she said. 

“And also for parents, if you can imagine fitting your child into a new school and just being able to communicate with the teachers about your child is going to be very, very comforting.” 

Paulette Monita says she thinks Manitoba’s schools that teach curriculum in Ukrainian are in a unique position to help refugee children transition into their new communities. (Radio-Canada)

She said they have been co-ordinating with schools that offer the English-Ukrainian bilingual program to ensure there is capacity to take these students in. 

At Winnipeg’s R.F. Morrison School, vice-principal Oksana Kosteckyj said one Ukrainian student is set to begin classes later this week.

She said the student has already had a tour of his new school. 

“We have lots of Ukrainian-speaking kids at our school that we’re able to talk to this little boy in Ukrainian and welcome him. They’re excited to meet him,” she said. 

Oksana Kosteckyj, vice principal of R.F. Morrison School in Winnipeg, says one student from Ukraine is expected to start classes there later this week. (Radio-Canada)

Kosteckyj said the school has been in touch with a couple other families who have students they want to enrol as well and wants to make sure they receive a warm welcome after everything they’ve been through. 

“We know that’s really important for these kids that are coming to feel a little piece of home is with them,” she said. 

“And we feel like at our school we can do that with our language and our culture.”

HC Avery School has also been in touch with Ukraine families about enrolling their children, and has met with one student so far, said vice-principal Thom Gross. 

“The students here are very, very welcoming and excited to have them.”