Luxembourg is working on hosting children from Ukraine in its schools but parents are reporting long delays and disappointed searches for childcare Illustrative photo: LaLa La Photo

Luxembourg is working on hosting children from Ukraine in its schools but parents are reporting long delays and disappointed searches for childcare Illustrative photo: LaLa La Photo

The first children of Ukrainian families who have fled to Luxembourg have started school but parents looking for crèche places say they are struggling to find places.

Around 4,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Luxembourg over the last three weeks since Russia began its invasion of the country. Around a third of them are children and teenagers under the age of 18. While their parents receive the right to work in the grand duchy under a temporary protection mechanism, finding childcare can be difficult.

“I cannot put my son in school until I get temporary protection,” one mother told Delano through the LUkraine association. “We submitted the forms to the ministry of foreign affairs two and a half weeks ago. But no reply.”

While the immigration procedure is ongoing, the education ministry takes charge of advising parents on their school options, a ministry spokesperson said, adding that there should be a delay of only one to three days between parents contacting the ministry and a first meeting.

But parents reported unhelpful commune officials, who don’t seem to know the procedures put in place and delays hearing back from the ministry. A family who registered their 7-year-old boy with school authorities on 9 March said they had not heard anything since then. They were told before that “it can take two to three weeks for the family to be contacted by the responsible school. So, we are waiting.”

Helpline set up

The government on Friday said it has set up a helpline in English and Ukrainian for families to report to its service specialising in school options for foreigners (Secam). The office is located in 38 Rue Philippe II in Luxembourg City with the helpline available at 247-76570 (English) and 247-76976 (Ukrainian).

Parents who contacted the commune where they are staying are urged to contact Secam to benefit from its services. The office will usually suggest several options and discuss these with parents. It is looking at finding places at Luxembourg’s European and international schools for classes in English.

And the ministry is working on hiring people from Ukraine or those who speak the language to help with school integration. LUkraine said it has around 57 teachers and educators registered. Candidates can send their application including a CV and cover letter to [email protected].

While some children have already started school, the ministry expects most to begin in the next two weeks. There are school holidays from 2 to 18 April for Easter.

“Finding childcare can be quite a challenge”

But for families with children below pre-school age--the Luxembourg education system begins at age 3 for the cycle 1--the search might be even more difficult.

A woman with a 1.5-year-old child “was told that there are no kindergarten places. They live in Luxembourg City. It seems worst with pre-school age kids. The places are not guaranteed,” a spokesperson for LUkraine said in an email, saying that several families had been disappointed in their search for childcare.

“Finding childcare can be quite a challenge in Luxembourg,” said Sam O’Dea, director of Sunflower Montessori Crèche. Many parents in Luxembourg register their children before they are even born to secure a place for the end of parental leave.

“At the moment we only have afternoon places available.” A new location opening in Moutfort will be able to offer places from May as well as another crèche opening in Belval. “Of course, we will be delighted to offer these places for children from Ukraine,” O’Dea said.

The crèche has hosted a coffee morning at its Findel site. “Families could meet others in a similar situation to swap stories, problems and solutions,” O’Dea said, adding that she is planning on hosting the coffee mornings on a weekly basis.

Once parents are granted temporary protection, they have access to the so-called chèque services, a benefit system that partially covers costs for crèche and daycare facilities. In case families have no income, this service is free.

The ministry is working with representatives of the sector to secure places for children aged 0 to 4, the spokesperson said in an email to Delano, as well as after school care for children aged 4 to 12.