According to conservative and generous estimates, French-speaking schools alone will have to accommodate between 11,400 and 39,700 Ukrainian pupils in their classes, with the total cost falling somewhere between €17.7 and €94.3 million.
The arrival of tens of thousands of Ukrainians in Belgium has already had an impact on the budgets of the associations and institutions responsible for reception, reports Le Soir, and that includes schools.
The Wallonia-Brussels Federation set up a working group called “Ukraine - framework and budgetary aspects” in order to estimate the costs generated by the reception of Ukrainian refugees in French-speaking education, laying out plans according to various hypotheses.
Working in the dark without hard data on refugees
The working group’s detailed report, which includes those million-euro estimates, features 15 different projections for costs. The group says it's cautious about the incoming flow of student refugees in the medium term.
“It is impossible to have a precise estimate of the expected additional costs without knowing the number of refugees and their distribution among schools,” the report says.
The group is therefore working on the basis of theoretical projections, albeit in line with the Federal Government's forecasts.
In a first hypothesis, the group estimates that 80,000 refugees (compared to the 35,000 people currently hosted in Belgium) will seek shelter, of which 32,000 could settle in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.
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“This would represent nearly 11,400 children to be accommodated in schools (3,000 in nursery, 5,000 in primary and 3,400 in secondary education),” the experts estimate.
A second hypothesis, said to be “the scenario most frequently mentioned by the Federal Government,” predicts that 200,000 migrants from Ukraine will be arriving, which means that almost 28,400 pupils will have to be accommodated (7,500 in kindergarten, 12,600 in primary and 8,300 in secondary schools).
A third hypothesis – a generous one – anticipates the arrival of 280,000 refugees on Belgian territory, or nearly 39,700 pupils (10,500 in kindergarten, 17,500 in primary and 11,700 in secondary education).
Modelling expenditures for foreign-born student education
The working group made its calculations assuming that pupils would join existing classes designed to cater to pupils who are new to the country.
In the most conservative hypothesis scenario, it means some 9,300 students are enrolled in such schooling with a cost between €17.7 and €27.1 million, spread over five stages.
In hypothesis two, the one favoured by the Federal Government, 23,150 students are enrolled at a cost ranging from €44.7 to €67.5 million.
Finally, in the most generous hypothesis of 32,350 pupils with each of the five scenarios, the cost is respectively €47 million, €65 million, €75.2 million, €81.2 million and €94.3 million euros.
The Wallonia-Brussels Federation would be responsible for footing the bill; however, the working group specifies that “steps may be taken regarding possible new European aid to deal with the situation or the mobilisation of existing funds.”