The Freedom School (Vabaduse Kool in Estonian), founded by the Ministry of Education and Research of Estonia in May 2022 for Ukrainian war refugee children and youth, will welcome 560 Ukrainian pupils in basic and upper-secondary education starting this autumn.
The school, located in the centre of Tallinn, teaches in Estonian and Ukrainian, and in addition to compulsory subjects pupils will also learn Ukrainian language and culture.
At the opening ceremony of the school this morning, the school family was welcomed by Education and Research Minister Tõnis Lukas, who stressed that wisdom and education are the source of personal freedom. "The meaning of freedom is not recognized until it starts to disappear, so we must preserve it. Freedom is neither given nor given as a gift, it must be taken and defended every day." The Minister added that the most important wish for the beginning of the school year is for Ukraine to win the war - then our common destinies in Ukraine and Estonia will also take a positive turn. "The Estonian governement supports the Freedom School, the Ukrainian students and their families. We will do our best to ensure that young Ukrainians in Estonia receive a good education and make friends for life," Minister Lukas said.
The First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska addressed the staff of the school in a video call saying that she understands the students "uncertainty about the future, but that the school has created all the conditions for a high-quality and interesting education." The Estonian government will ensure that you have the opportunity to learn. You will have lessons in both Estonian and Ukrainian, which means that your mother tongue and Estonian will go hand in hand. This gives you the freedom of knowledge, language and communication - the freedom that makes the whole world free for you," Zelenska added.
According to Olga Selistcheva, Director of Education at Freedom School, the main task of the school is to create a safe learning environment and support the development of each individual student. "We are very pleased that in just over three months we have created a school in which 560 young Ukrainians are starting their studies today. Each of our students has their own story to bring to our school, but I believe that from today on they will be able to add a beautiful new side to their existing stories, full of joy in learning and discovering, nice meetings and making new friends," said Selistcheva.
The Freedom School acts as the learning center of the Tallinn Tõnismae State Gymnasium. Alo Savi, director of school, said that teaching and learning at the Freedom School is both a responsibility and an opportunity, not only for the students but also for the teachers. "We have a responsibility to provide a quality education and an opportunity to challenge ourselves by creating a high quality, supportive and developable school environment for young people who desperately need it. A center that works closely and intertwined with other state grammar schools and the wider education network of Tallinn," Savi said.
Ambassador of Ukraine to Estonia, Marina Betsa also delivered a speech at the opening ceremony, stressing the importance of teaching Ukrainian children in Estonia.
560 young people will start their education at the Freedom School, 320 will begin their studies at the third level of basic education and 240 in the upper-secondary education. The classes will have a total of 20 to 22 students, and each class will have two class teachers - one from Ukraine and one from Estonia.
The school team currently consists of 73 people, of whom 29 are teachers and support specialists from Ukraine. Lessons at the Freedom School will be based on the method of immersion in the language - 60% of the lessons will be in Estonian and 40% in Ukrainian. The Estonian language will be used to teach the official language, social sciences, humanities, technology, music, physical education and art. Physics, chemistry, natural sciences and Ukrainian language and culture will be taught in Ukrainian. Mathematics, literature, history, geography and biology will be taught in both Estonian and Ukrainian.
A gallery of the opening ceremony can be found here.
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