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October 2017
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Is school the most important? The problem around education for asylum children.

At the end of September another crisis shelter opens for the asylum seekers that came to the Netherlands. It are the Ijsselhallen in Zwolle, a place which is usually used for fairs and concerts. There are several big halls filled with hundreds of bunk beds. The sudden growth of the number of asylum seekers are setting schools for unexpected problems. The Dutch cabinet finances schools according to the number of enrolled children on the first October, children who join the school after the first of October do not get any finances and schools need to handle this themselves. Preschools with a great influx of asylum children contend with financial problems. This year already 22,000 people whereof almost 5000 children came to the Netherlands to seek asylum. These people came from different places like Eritrea, Syria and Iraq. Asylum children need to be educated within eight weeks after arrival. Because of the large influx of asylum children this year, preschools need to hire new teachers and buy new teaching materials. Expertise center Lowan is specialized in education for asylum children, they state that this kind of education is expensive. ‘We normally try to help schools with preparing but now there is such a high demand for support that even we cannot live up to it,’ said the project manager of Lowan.

Anjolien Lenderink is policy advisor of Zwolle she informs about how education is regulated ‘Children who do not speak Dutch start in NT2 classes ( Dutch Second Language Classes), they will go there in the morning and after that they will participate on a normal preschool. Especially the first weeks are very difficult, the Dutch children need to be educated about what is happening and why some children do not speak their language.’ Each town regulates the education for asylum seekers, the NT2 classes are set up in places where towns have place for it. For these NT2 classes specialized teachers need to be hired, it is important that teachers can handle traumatic experiences of these children.
Jaap Kort is the director of CBS Het Stroomdal in Zwolle, he says ‘we notice the crisis which is going on now, we also provide lessons to some of these children. It is very difficult in the first couple of weeks to let a child who does not speak the language fit in, some children can cope with it and some cannot. We try to go on with the program like we planned it and hope that they will eventually get along.’ Education is one of the most important things in life, but it should not be forced on a child who cannot give what is asked. Children are the very sensible, they do not really know what is happening, they are in a different country and they do not have a home yet. I understand that going to school is very important but should not the child be help with their traumas first? For some children it can be even more traumatic to go to a school where you can talk to nobody because nobody can understand you. These children cannot develop themselves in normal classes, there should be another way to provide these children with the assistance they need.

Evert van den Born has been a teacher for asylum children for eight years, he wrote a book with columns about the children he worked with. He said that asylum children are amazing children to work with, they are willing to learn and to participate but it becomes very difficult when there are all kinds of different languages spoken. Their lives are influenced by the political choices the Netherlands makes. With the great influx now of asylum children he says that there should be a better program to give the right education and assistance to them, it is hard to see that a child who is willing to learn cannot participate in the program and this should be changed. Their future matters as much as the one of our children.

Tineke Beijer, a parent of two children from 7 and 5, is concerned about her own children. ‘My oldest son sits in a class with two asylum children, they are in his class for I think around a month now and luckily they do very well. What I do not understand is that our cabinet economize on education but so much money is spend to give these children education but what is happening to the level of education for my children? I understand that also asylum children need to have education but it should not come at the cost of my children.’ A parent always wants the best for his or her own children, they want to give them the best education. Teachers need to pay more attention to asylum children, see what they understand and how they improve. These children need extra attention, but the other children will lose attention. Because of the large influx the cabinet should think about new ways how these children can be educated differently. To me, educate these children in normal classes is not the best way, not for the Dutch children and not for the asylum children. They need to be in a class with somebody who can understand them, to help them if they have questions. Why is learning another language a priority if you do not even know if you can stay? Sure education is very important but trauma counseling and making a child it as comfortable as possible is more important at this point. They need to forget what they have been trough and hopefully one day they can finally be children again.

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