Ukrainian refugee children without a place in a day care center or kindergarten

Lusa last week asked the Ministry of Labor, Solidarity and Social Security how many children are in daycare centers and kindergartens and how many are still without vacancies, but have not yet received a response.

In Portugal, Ukrainian refugees lament the lack of space in daycare centers and kindergartens for their children, a situation that makes it difficult for them to integrate, as they cannot take training courses, go to job interviews or take jobs.

The Ukrainian Refugee Association (UAPT) warned: “In the case of children and adolescents in primary and secondary education, everything is going well, but in the case of children it is quite complicated because there is not enough space for everyone”, she told Lusa Irina Shakira.

Going to job interviews or taking an elementary course in Portuguese is complicated for those who have no one to leave their children with, admitting that Ukrainians have fled the war in recent months.

Since the beginning of the conflict, on February 24, Portugal has welcomed more than 35,000 people: two out of three women and about 10,000 children under the age of 14, according to the Foreigners and Border Services (SEF).

Lusa last week asked the Ministry of Labor, Solidarity and Social Security how many children are in daycare centers and kindergartens and how many are still without vacancies, but have not yet received a response.

The government has changed the maximum number of children in daycare centers, allowing two more in each room, but the decision to do so does not help the private sector financially.

We’re accepting free babies, but we can’t get any more because there is no co-payment.. Social Security only provides financial assistance to children in IPSS (Private Social Solidarity Institution). We have already warned that we may get more, but we have not received any response, “lamented Sujana Batista, president of the Association of Day Care Centers and Small Private Education Establishments (ACPEEP).

For lack of financial support, Suzanne Batista adds a lack of coordination: “Children are coming to us because families are looking for us. There were directors who informed the municipality about their availability, but there was no word on where they were needed or where they were needed. “

Daria arrived in Portugal in March and has yet to find a school for her 2- and 4-year-old children. She lived in Kharkiv until the war forced her to say goodbye to her husband, brother, mother and mother-in-law. She fled with her children and could not carry anything after her in a suitcase.

The software quality specialist lives in Lisbon and works in Ukraine: “I continue to work ‘online’ and ‘part-time’. It’s hard, but I try to focus on work while they’re asleep, and when they wake up, I watch their TV, “she told Lusa.

One of Daria’s goals was to be able to communicate better with the locals: “The Portuguese are very welcome, but I have already met people who do not speak English and it was very complicated,” he said.

Concerned about the lack of courses offered for those whose children have no one to leave, the Ukraine Refugee Association has found an answer in the Vodafone Foundation.

At Vodafone’s headquarters in Lisbon, adults take Portuguese or English classes every day, while children are transformed into playgrounds in a large room.

We set up a kindergarten in record time. We have an average of 15 to 20 children per day, while mothers are in class”Explained Lusa Anna Mesquita Verisimo, head of the Vodafone Foundation, who even brought her children’s toys to work to brighten up the children’s living room.

The second floor of the modern building now houses a sleeping area for children, an improved football field, a television “with Russian channels blocked”, huge pillows scattered on the floor and many toys, including a brick castle. The card is made by children who have placed a Ukrainian flag on top. There are small sized colored plastic tables and chairs, colored pencils and wall paintings.

“The foundation has done a fantastic job and the initiative also allows children to learn Portuguese,” added Irina Shakira, explaining that one in four educators is Portuguese and “taught a lot, such as knowing the color or the name of the fruit.”

Oksana, Alina and Natalia are three other academics, as well as Ukrainian refugees. “It was a way we found a way to give jobs to those who came,” said Anna Mesquita Vericimo, adding that it was also good for children to have someone who could speak their language.

But the first few days were not easy. “Kids don’t want to be alone here and mothers come to class to see if they are OK. I remember Karina holding her mother. The youngest children between the ages of 2 and 4 cried the most. They got more scared. They don’t want to be away from their mother, “Alina recalls.

The educationist who fled Odessa to Portugal on March 22 guaranteed that “now the children will come to this place.”

7-year-old Vsevolod is one such case. Katia, a mother born in Lugansk 33 years ago, said, “She spends her days asking when we’re here, because there are boys playing here.”

Lugansk Simstress is now unemployed and believes that learning Portuguese can help her find work, so she has also signed up for a Vodafone course.

Iryna Shkira wants more organizations to move forward with projects like the Vodafone Foundation. “The Portuguese are very helpful, I really believe they are the most welcome in Europe, but it would be nice if others could take such initiatives in courses, including accommodation with children,” the association official appealed.

While Katia learns Portuguese, her son plays with the other children, just as Daria rests for three hours a day in class where Danilo and Sophia are supervised by teachers.

Despite Ukrainian academics, there is no mention of what was left behind. “We don’t ask kids anything because we don’t want them to remember moments that can be painful,” explained Portuguese teacher Anna.

But the past appears, occasionally, in the drawing. “A boy builds a house and then he traces it in black and we realize it’s a bomb,” he said.

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