ETUCE Solidarity Mission to the Baltic States – support to Ukrainian refugees 


Nearly one year after the Russian attack on Ukraine and the raging war in the country, an ETUCE delegation embarked on a solidarity mission (16-19 January 2023) to meet with national and local education trade union leaders from EEPU, UNIVERSITAS, LIZDA, LESTU and LEETU, teachers and school leaders, as well as government officials from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to gain first-hand information on the support provided to Ukrainian refugees in education in the three countries. ETUCE President Larry Flanagan, ETUCE European Director Susan Flocken and Programme Officer Valeryia Despaihne talked to teachers, academics, education support personnel, students and education policy makers on the ground.  

Ever since the beginning of the war, ETUCE has been monitoring the developments in the education sector in the neighbouring countries, first visiting Poland, Romania and Moldova with the highest intake of refugee students in May 2021. ETUCE has been in close contact with its member organisations in Ukraine as well as in other countries hosting and supporting Ukrainian refugees.  

One of the most pressing issues is the language barrier. As Susan Flocken explains: `There has been low demand to teach the local national languages, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian as foreign language in the past and coupled with the overall shortage of teachers and the gradual shift towards applying exclusively the national language as language for instruction, the demand for experienced language teachers is already huge, in addition to helping Ukrainian students in regular schools to fast-track their language acquisition. While teachers and students adapt and find ways to  communicate despite the language barrier, the strain on both teachers and students is obvious .’ 

In the beginning, many refugees had hoped to be able to return to their home country after a short period and to resume their work and education at home as normal. By now, the situation has evolved requiring a more long-term solution. Indeed  the education authorities in all three countries are working together with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education to mutually recognize exams and qualifications. Whilethe official mutual recognition is under way, many students engage in double schooling (attending education in their host countries  in the mornings and learning online according to the Ukrainian curriculum in the afternoon), which results in double workload and obviously causes stress and fatigue.

While many Ukrainian refugee teachers are employed as teachers, often they are also employed as teaching assistants, helping students  overcome learning difficulties, creating teaching material in Ukrainian and aiding the process of social integration. Needless to say, Ukrainian teachers in the Baltic States are predominantly women with children, having had to leave their homes, and male family members behind, often themselves traumatized. 

`With this visit, we wish to convey the message of continued strong solidarty with all teachers and education trade union members affected by the war in Ukraine` - concluded Larry Flanagan, ETUCE President.  

Mission Report