In her State of the Union address on 14 September 2022, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen outlined flagship initiatives which the Commission plans to undertake in the coming year. Never before had the European Parliament debated the State of our Union with war raging on European soil.
The initiatives among others include continuing to strongly support Ukraine and its people, and continuing to stand up for democracy, at home and across the world, and for the rule of law. This means, among the other things, that Ukrainian children who benefit from temporary protection should have access to ECEC under the same conditions as EU citizens. However, this can be challenging in countries facing a shortage of ECEC places and staff shortages.
This is why non-formal and informal education settings, just like play hubs in reception centres, community centres, local associations, libraries and so on, should be activated in this sense, contributing to provide more flexible though high-quality ECEC services.
The toolkit for inclusive Early Childhood Education and Care lists practical examples of high-quality ECEC programmes for refugees, such as prenatal, postnatal, and preventative health care, parenting support and home visits, and free access to ECEC.
European associations are also collecting resources to support ECEC professionals, such as this compilation by ISSA, one of the Diversity+ partners.
A number of creative solutions have also been found to address initial linguistic barriers, such as collaborating with embassies and associations to find Ukrainian and Russian-speaking volunteers, or using interpretation tools or services, like this free Austrian video-interpreting service, and supporting access to children’s books in Ukrainian, following the example of the National Library of Sweden.
Skola Dokoran, another Diversity+ partner, located in Slovakia, one of Ukraine’s neighbouring countries, has opened six Play Hubs to respond quickly to the needs of Ukrainian refugee children in locations with large numbers of Ukrainian refugees.
The Diversity+ consortium calls for a shared responsibility of public and private actors to contribute to social cohesion and equity, starting with the affirmation of the youngest’s rights.