How the school creates a place for the children of Ukraine

By Mattea Battaglia

Published today at 02:01

A class in which the students are constantly talking, chattering, laughing while moving almost freely from the small tables to the blackboard … and vice versa: this is the atmosphere in which you enter when you open the door of Catherine Darenne’s room on the top floor of the small Victor Hugo primary school in Avallon (Yonne).

Opposite her, four children raise their voices this Tuesday, April 5th. Martin, 11, his sister Lilia, 8, and twins Vlada and Valeria, also 8, speak Ukrainian non-stop and incorporate a few English phrases into their exchanges. And a few words – her first ones – in French: “I’m fine”, “I’m reading”, “to try”. The two siblings came with their respective families from Ukraine in early March and joined around fifty other refugees in the city of 6,500 who were fleeing the bombs from Kyiv or Kharkiv.

“On the way from Kyiv to Avallon, and put your suitcases in the middle of the Morvan Regional Park, it must be something, at the height of a child”, breathes the director of the school, Arnaud Duplessis, who has integrated the four “New” to his hundred students three weeks ago. The boy was enrolled in CM2, the girls in CE2, but they leave their respective classes two mornings a week to work in small groups with Catherine Darenne.

“A Cocoon Roll”

About the exodus, about everything that happened ” In front “, the teaching staff knows very little. She is not looking “Necessary” to know. “In the face of uprooting and trauma, the school can act as a cocoon, a bracket for the child, argues Ariane Ourry, CM2 teacher. The beginning of a return to normality. »

On April 5, 2022, 11-year-old Martin takes part in an activity created by Catherine Darenne, UPE2A teacher at the Victor Hugo school in Avallon (Yonne).

Catherine Darenne discovered words in exchanges between children “Putin” and “Ukraine”, and “Faces that sometimes freeze”, sign of one “certain stress”. But in thirty years of career she has learned to deal with it: Among other things, she contributes in her constituency “caps”, that of the referent of the academic center for the education of allophonic children (whose first language is not French), which tests and assigns newcomers according to their level and place of residence. Who is placed in educational units for incoming allophone students (UPE2A) in elementary, college and high school; which is the case in more flexible systems such as Avallon’s, where personalized attention evolves according to needs.

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