Ukrainian children tell of their Swiss school

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, around 13,000 Ukrainian children who have fled to Switzerland with their families have started schools across the country. We visited a school in Aubonne in western Switzerland to see how young refugees are getting on with the new system and the new language.  

This content was published on April 6, 2023

The 12th-century castle in Aubonne, a small town in canton Vaud,  perched on a hill overlooking Lake Geneva has served as a school building for hundreds of years. It is also the place where children who have just moved to this part of Switzerland start school.  

Over the past year, the school has welcomed around 50 Ukrainian children. Some have already returned to their home country since first fleeing to Switzerland because of the war, while 30 others are still attending classes there.  

“Ukrainian kids are good in maths,” says Sarah Dufour, a schoolteacher who coordinates the welcome classes. “And we notice after the first stress is gone, they are artistic, they like to express themselves. Lots of them were already practising music and other arts at home or doing sport activities. Their parents really took a keen interest in their education.” 

Fourteen-year-old Amir dreams of becoming a banker as his grandparents and his mother did. “Looking out the window at those mountains really motivates me to learn,” he declares. 

The Ukrainian children had to start learning French when they arrived, and the older ones even had to add German under the Swiss curriculum. Despite the big workload, the pupils are enthusiastic about their schooling.  

“There are more requirements,” says 15-year-old Karina. “For example, you cannot use cell phones during classes, but in general it is interesting to learn.” 

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