“WE are trying to make their integration as seamless as possible considering the horrific challenges they are undertaking,” said the principal of the North Monastery Secondary School, Tony McSweeney, on the successful integration of Ukrainian students into their school.
13 Ukrainian students from first to fourth year have been welcomed into the Cork city secondary school with open arms by the teachers and students alike, Mr McSweeney said.
“The Ukrainian students started both prior to and after Easter. We as a school have welcomed them in. All the teachers and students have been so accommodating towards the new Ukrainian students.
“Our students were quick to exchange numbers with the new students and arrange trips to Funderland with them,” he said.
Mr McSweeney said the school have also come up with initiatives to help the students integrate and to involve the families of their new Ukrainian students.
“We are providing the educational support, but also the school community support. We recently revamped our canteen and had a new kitchen put in.
“We invited the families up to the school for a coffee morning so they could meet the teachers and the other parents in the school community. Our aim was to make their siblings, parents and guardians part of the school community in the Mon.
“We have also opened up our canteen so the families can come up and cook. All the families share a room each which can be a real strain for facilities and cooking so we have freed up our kitchen two days a week so they can cook for their families. It also allows them to batch cook for a few days. William Reidy who is one of our teachers here has co-ordinated this and he has done a great job. He has taken on the role of integrating students and liaising with the families,” he added.
The Ukrainian families have in turn insisted on cooking native dishes for the North Mon teachers as a way of saying thanks said the principal.
“They insisted that they wanted to cook for the staff, so they are now cooking Ukrainian dishes and giving them to the staff which is a great gesture. It is a real school community approach to integrating the students.
“As an Edmund Rice school inclusivity and creating a caring school community are two of our pillars. They are very central in the Mon,” said Mr McSweeney about their approach to ensure the Ukrainian students adjusted to their new environment.
“The students have integrated so well into our secondary school. We want to make sure their families settle into the local community and their needs are catered for. We are not just providing an education; we are providing a bigger support for the families and to really make them feel part of the school community.
“To the best of my knowledge, we were one of the first schools to take Ukrainian students in. The first couple of secondary students on the northside came to the Mon. They arrived with no English. We worked with them. We are giving the boys extra English classes, but we have also made sure that all the facilities are available for all family members. We got them set up with books and uniforms to give them a sense of normality,” he added.
The secondary school principal said the 13 Ukrainian students are committed to education.