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A new school year between apprehension and excitement

Friday 4 September 2020

Since 15 of April, Caritas Luxembourg has been hosting 12 unaccompanied minors from Greek refugee camps. Since their arrival, the young people, aged between 11 and 16, have adapted well and are looking forward to the start of the school year. Interview with Nelle Koos, in charge of the Maison Saint Hubert which welcomes them.

What was the educational level of the young people when they arrived in Luxembourg?

Their educational level is varied. Some have never been to school in their lives and cannot read or write, others have been to school but in lower classes, and still others have learned to read and write at home. Many of them come from countries where school is not necessarily compulsory and is a luxury that many families cannot afford. Others come from countries at war where there are simply no more schools. Still others lived in countries where they were not really recognized and had no right to go to school. In addition, most of them have been "on the road" for some time - more than a year for some - and during this time they have not been able to attend school. Most of them learnt rudimentary English in the camps in Greece. This is how we were able to communicate in the beginning, with the support of our translators.

What was set up when they arrived so that they could go to school?

While waiting for them to be able to go to school, we organised a few hours each morning a kind of school in the House and taught them the minimum necessary so that they could understand and be understood. They have, for example, learned how to introduce themselves. We also taught them to recognise the letters of our alphabet and to pronounce the sounds of our language. Then, the school level of each young person was evaluated by the Service for the Schooling of Foreign Children of the Ministry of National Education, Children and Youth and each young person was oriented in the appropriate class corresponding to his or her level. Unfortunately, all of this fell during the period of confinement. As a result, the young people had to work from the House on the basis of sheets given to them by their teachers. The socio-educational team accompanied them. Once a week, the young people were able to go to their host class to ask questions and receive explanations about the sheets in their mother tongue. Thanks to the computer equipment made available, the young people were able to communicate and work without any problems during the confinement.  Later, they were able to join their classes every day, which allowed them to meet other young people and make some friends. In fact, they went there beyond the 15th of July until mid-August, in order to make maximum progress.

Where will they go at the beginning of the school year?

They have been directed to four different high schools (Wiltz, Ettelbruck, Clervaux and Mersch) where they will be integrated into reception classes and Clija. One young person will directly integrate a 7th general French-speaking integration class. The youngest child will go to a the école fondamentale near the Maison Saint Hubert.

A few days before the start of the new school year, how do they feel?

They are all overexcited. Like all students, they are a little apprehensive on the first day, it's normal. They ask themselves a lot of questions: will they find the right room, how will the teachers be, who will be the other students, will everyone be looking at them, etc.? What is certain is that they are happy to start school with all the other students and not enter a class in the middle of the year. We visited the high schools with them when they registered. Some of them asked to go back before. What we are going to do. We are also going to make the road with them on the first day. We have started to see with them what they will need for school: books, materials, clothes, etc. and also if they want to do after school activities. Some of them are already registered with the football club. We are still looking for volleyball, boxing, dance, etc. clubs that could welcome them. What is certain is that they are so happy to finally be able to go to school like all young people of their age. It is for them something they never dared to hope for. They are very grateful for the opportunity that Luxembourg gives them.

Do they already have ideas about what they want to do later?

Some of them have very concrete ideas, like a lawyer or a machinist. Others are still looking. In any case, we have been seeing over the last few months with them that they all have passions and talents that should absolutely be encouraged.

And how is the atmosphere among the Educational staff?

We are all as excited as the young people. We can't wait to hear them talk about their first day at school.  We are very happy for them and wish them all the best in their studies and in their lives.

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