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Students From Ukraine Find A Welcoming Home In Passage West

St. Peter’s Secondary School in Passage West is delighted to welcome its newest enrolments and the school’s first group of Ukrainian refugees. The five students, all from the Kyiv area, last month left loved ones behind and made arduous journeys with other family members to Cork.

Here they have found the warmest of welcomes, particularly at St. Peter’s where they’ve been provided with uniforms and books by the school. The group missed little of their education and slotted straight into their new classes which have been adapted to include an intensive English programme.

‘We asked teachers to volunteer their time and the response has been incredible,’ said Derek Dunne, school principal. ‘We’ve been able to cover many hours of English language teaching, some by specialist EAL teachers, all from the goodwill of our teachers. Pupils too have been very inquisitive about their new classmates. It’s all a great learning experience.’ The school’s deputy principal Blanid Quane and principal have themselves committed to returning to the classroom to teach the group.

St. Peter’s, which has a great tradition of welcoming students from different countries, is a vibrant and diverse school and it is growing fast. Plans are currently being finalised for a massive extension which should see the school double in size. Every year up to thirty international students (mostly from Germany, Italy and Spain) come and enjoy the special Cork welcome.

Derek Dunne (Principal) with students: Daniil Bernik (age 14), Vlad Onyshchenko (age 17), Bohdan Bernik (age 17) & Valeria Nechytailo (14), (Vitali Onyshchenko, absent, on a school trip), alongside Emmet Ryan (English teacher) & Blánid Quane (Deputy Principal) at St. Peter's Community School, Passage West, 8th April. Pic: Siobhan Russell

Many stay to do the Leaving Cert and some come back too, such is the lure of the unique atmosphere of the school. The latest students are not the first refugees to enrol either. Just a few years ago, a number of boys arrived from Syria via Lebanon and made St. Peter’s their educational home. Next year, teachers hope and expect to see some of those boys progress to university, having come through their own traumatic experiences.

For now, the focus is on making life as comfortable as possible for the five children from Kyiv. Vlad, who is in fifth year hopes to be a vet in the future and his classmate Bohdan, whose father has remained in Kyiv to fight, has ambitions to work in the tourist industry. The younger students Vitali, Daniel and Valeria who are in first and second year respectively, are still unsure as to what careers they would like.

Time will tell. Of course where they’ll get to play out those careers is also unknown. In any case, for as long as they are in Ireland, this appreciative group who love it here will be made welcome, and especially welcome at St. Peter’s.

Oh…and did you know that the Ukrainian and Irish words for school are pretty much identical? Perhaps we have more in common than we think.

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