The summer club organised to Ukrainian schoolchildren in Seinäjoki was a heart-warming success story
A summer without school or something to do in general is long especially to a child or a young person who has recently fled the war to a new country. When the summer was approaching, this problem was discussed in many Finnish municipalities, including Seinäjoki.
A further programme was speedily organised to children of comprehensive school age who had arrived from Ukraine during the spring: a summer club lasting until the Midsummer week.
Approximately 70 Ukrainian pupils were attending basic education in Seinäjoki in the spring. A total of 47 of them enrolled in the summer club straight away,” says Marika Ojala, acting Director of Basic Education at Seinäjoki.
“We were able to proceed to the implementation quickly as teachers of preparatory education showed interest for running the club. In my opinion, the realisation of the club was a heart-warming success story,” Ojala says.
Adaptation of projects encouraged by the European Commission
Two teachers and one Ukrainian-speaking instructor were employed to lead the club. Another advantage from the point of view of speedy implementation was that funding from Erasmus+ could be used for the costs of the club and the teaching staff.
With official encouragement from the European Commission, Seinäjoki seized the opportunity to adapt ongoing Erasmus+ projects to help people who have fled the war in Ukraine.
At the time, the Responsible Future Leaders project with the theme active citizenship and democracy education was under way at Marttila School in Seinäjoki.
“The project has been delayed because of COVID-19, and its content can now be adapted to helping the Ukrainian children,” Ojala says.
“Pupils have a central role in the project. In the summer club, the participatory themes and activities of the project were focused on how the Ukrainians will be integrated into the school’s activities.”
A meaningful experience to the teacher as well
After the club had ended, at noon on the Wednesday preceding Midsummer, to be precise, Saila Latukka, who led the club, answers her phone.
“It went very well. We collected feedback and the young people were quite excited. We used a lot of functional teaching methods where pupils could be active agents,” Latukka explains.
Separate groups were formed for children of primary and secondary school age. The importance of the Ukrainian-speaking instructor helping the two teachers was emphasised especially in the group of the smaller children.
“The most important thing was to create a safe environment where the children could spend time together with children of the same age. At the same time, they learnt words, talking about oneself, cultural differences and Finnish things. Today, on the last day, we talked about Finnish midsummer.”
According to Latukka, some of the children might have been in Finland for a week, while others had already come here in March and had participated in preparatory education for quite some time.
“The club also helped us to keep up with the needs of the Ukrainian young people. It was important that the young people did not to have to spend the whole summer without any organised programme.”
Latukka also found the experience meaningful to herself.
“I will definitely remember this later, too. I had the opportunity to be involved in providing help and protection.
The spirit of helping
When the war in Ukraine broke out, Seinäjoki and other Finnish municipalities were suddenly facing a new situation.
“The beginning of the war was a rapid change to our schools. The staff have been flexible and have done an enormous job. The spirit of helping has prevailed in the whole organisation, in which many employees have had a personal desire to help,” Ojala says.
She emphasises that, from the schools’ point of view, the child or young person arriving in the city does not just walk into the local school and start studying. It is not quite as simple as that. The summer club also supports the situation as a whole as it provides the young people with practice in the Finnish language and helps the educational administration maintain contact with the newcomers.
“In the autumn, we will provide the Ukrainian children with a safe school with stable conditions. We cannot know how long the situation will ultimately go on. We will continue in the autumn term, one day at a time and adapting to new situations,” Ojala says.