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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Catherine Salmond: Educational challenges facing refugees must not be underestimated

It was not down to ability, or organisation, and the willingness was most certainly there. But I lacked the patience at times to deal with three children who really did not wish to be in my “classroom”.

Cue heavy sighs, crossed words, empty threats (such as banning the TV) or clear and desperate bribes (sweets). I pleaded, begged, reasoned, ranted – whatever it took to keep them on track and engaged in their learning.

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We muddled through – we had to – and although it was not an experience I (or indeed they) would like to repeat, my kids returned to school with a carefree spring in their step and their attainment levels intact. Job done. Exercise complete.

Many Ukrainian families in Scotland are desperate for their children to keep up with the curriculum from their home country. Picture: Getty Images

Today, our World Editor Jane Bradley reveals the struggles facing many Ukrainian families in Scotland as they strive to protect – and progress – their children’s education.

And don’t these struggles put my homeschooling challenges in perspective?

Huge numbers of Ukrainian refugees are understandably desperate to get home.

They are grateful to be in Scotland – to be safe and alive – but they want their old lives back, or at least to start rebuilding new ones on home soil with their loved ones and their own traditions and routines.

And, understandably, they do not want their children to slip out of the Ukrainian way of doing things – including following the country’s educational curriculum – so are tapping into online resources their home country has made available for children dispersed across the world while war ravages at home.

Their children are attending Scottish schools and then doing Ukrainian home learning in the evenings and weekends.

My hat goes off to them and my heart goes out to them.

Children and parents are battling their own homeschooling challenges in an unfamiliar country, in temporary accommodation, and with a language barrier thrown in to the mix.

I very much hope they get home soon and that their time in Scotland is reflected upon as fondly as circumstances allow.

And I hope the efforts of Scotland’s teachers and support staff – who are offering vital short-term solutions in these families’ lives – make a lasting impression also.

These are exceptional times and we must continue to support Ukrainian refugees as best we can.

Catherine Salmond is editor of Scotland on Sunday

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