2022.01.08 08:00

Poems and history – what do migrant children study in Lithuania?

Aida Murauskaitė, LRT.lt2022.01.08 08:00

In October last year, children living in Migrant Registration Centres in Vilnius, Rukla, and Pabradė started their first academic year in Lithuania. In January, they will start a new semester, learning the country’s history on top of the Lithuanian language.

Around 300 children started attending lessons in Lithuania’s Migrant Registration Centres last year. Their number kept growing, reaching the current 400 students from Iraq, Kongo, Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and India.

In Vilnius Naujininkai Centre alone, there are eight study groups with an average of 15 children in each. But the number of students is constantly changing, as some families leave the country or move to other cities after being granted asylum.

“A number of migrants were transferred to Vilnius from Medininkai. Of course, there was chaos until the study groups got back on track,” said Greta Botyriūtė-Skiotienė, a coordinator of education for migrant kids.

Migrant children usually have 15 Lithuanian language lessons per week.

“The children are eager to learn. There are some who come twice per day. […] I think it shows that the children enjoy attending lessons,” Botyriūtė-Skiotienė said.

According to her, younger migrant children study the alphabet, learn Lithuanian poems and songs, while elder ones learn how to shop and order food in Lithuanian. Through language, they also learn about the country’s culture and cuisine.

After school, migrant children test their Lithuanian language skills by interacting with social workers and security guards. The latter are also trying to learn some Arabic and get to know the foreigners’ culture, according to Botyriūtė-Skiotienė.

The first learning phase, limited to the Lithuanian language, ends at the end of January. Later, young migrants will start attending Lithuanian history, geography, and civic education lessons.

Once they have a good command of Lithuanian, migrant children will start going to general education schools, where they will also study maths, physics, and other subjects.

Currently, 22 teachers work with migrant students. At the beginning of the academic year, volunteers were also invited to help teach foreign children, but the situation has changed.

“We always need volunteers, but because the state of emergency was declared, students could no longer go to the centres, so some projects had to be cancelled,” Botyriūtė-Skiotienė said.

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