"Students into World Citizens"

The concept is based on a combination of voluntary integration initiatives and full-time employment: instructors of German as a foreign language are put into action and integration aid workers are hired by the Ministry of Education to pick up the slack for teachers at schools who can't manage the load. Added to this are additional volunteers from across the country who are to assist with the additional instruction. But the concept hasn't yet gone through all the stages of bureaucracy, which means that schools aren't receiving any additional subsidies for refugees (as of February 2016). Despite this, one school started the programme in January 2016. They didn't want to keep those kids from Syria and Afghanistan, who are willing to learn, from getting an education any longer.

Thrown-together curricula 

17 refugees are already attending the Waldorf school. Ursula Kirchdörfer, a German teacher who is also qualified to teach German as a foreign language, says that the curricula for the new students were “thrown together” over Christmas break. The idea: to teach courses oriented towards vocational skills, the arts, and sports, in additional to maths, in classes where they’re among students their own age. This is how the “new” students in the class are integrated on an average school day. The first two hours, however, are there for intensive language learning requirements of the programme. Whenever German is taught, or whenever students are prepared for the university entrance exams, the refugee students are given German lessons in smaller supplementary groups. Ursula Kirchdörfer clearly outlines her expected outcomes: “for them to learn German intensively until the summer, and then transition them as quickly as possible into the various classes that already exist”.

The traumas the new students have experienced could become an issue: in the beginning, the experiences that the kids had in their home countries and on their journeys to Germany are not always visible to teachers. They think that the students will eventually open up on their own. Mr. Valentin thinks that Waldorf schools have an exceptional advantage: “the whole way that class is taught in creative aspects . . . in a certain sense this has a harmonising effect on people”. But he also anticipates seeking outside help for those who are severely traumatised.

Matthias Valentin (r.) created the integration initative with a colleague of his. Photo: Anna Rakhmanko.

Dual adoptions – getting parents involved

For the future, the school is planning on organising dual adoptions for refugees. Biology teacher Matthias Valentin explains how every new student is “adopted” by one of their new fellow classmates. At the next parent-teacher conference, the school plans on identifying potential adoptive families with whom the kids can undertake something once a week. Parent involvement is common at Waldorf schools. There have already been a number of parent-teacher conferences like this. “From the very beginning we involved the person nominated to represent all the parents”, says Valentin. “We didn't want parents to think that we were trying to use money that hasn't existed for the students before. Generally, however, the parents are very open”.

Matthias Valentin is convinced of the the effectiveness of having a mutual educational setting. He wants to raise his students to be world citizens, and sees the integration of refugees through the school as an opportunity for German students to expand their Eurocentric world views to encompass the world.

You can read more here about “the new kids in the class”. And in “Integration: One by One” you'll learn about how the Waldorf school in Frankfurt (Oder) is taking up new students.

Katharina Fäßler
24 years old, Trier
. . . believes that if more people were to make the effort to get to know the "new ones", there would be less reservations about the refugee situation in general.