Non Dutch speaking children and withdrawing teachers

In past years, the spring has been marked in the city by the sight of parents camping outside their school of preference to try to hook one of the few places open. This schoolyear we did not hear about such circumstances, so we may assume that problem seemes to be solved.

First there was the shortage of places for the pupils now we have the problem of shortage of teachers and of classrooms.

Children in Flanders went back to school last week, with the good news that every Dutch-speaking child in Brussels found a place in a Flemish school.

Vanraes has submitted his plans for Dutch-speaking education in Brussels over the next five years to Flemish education minister Pascal Smet. They include an investment of €40 million and the creation of 5,000 new places by 2015.

Klascontainers voor GBS De Vierklaver Asper

Clascontainers for primary school GBS De Vierklaver Asper

In the rest of Flanders, native speakers also all got places, after the investment of €12 million by Smet in pressure areas in Antwerp, Ghent, Halle and Vilvoorde. That involved installing container classes, converting unused rooms in schools to classrooms and moving some younger school children into secondary school premises. The container companies did good business and even when they received very late requests to deliver containers specifically manufactured to classroom units they manage to deliver them in time for the new schoolyear.

Education is the epitome of a bright future, and  you can wonder if such allocations which can feel cold in Winter and to hot in Summer. The companies on the Belgian market seem to offer nice containers which can be transformed into classroom modules that will foster a better education atmosphere, that will encourage more children of the community to attend school, that are currently discouraged from attending, due to the uncomfortable and overcrowding conditions of the classrooms. These containers that are remodelled into module classrooms, restrooms or kindergarten, will allow students to be in a safer built structure, as opposed to the crowded classes or older unsafe buildings.

stad wil voor september 800 extra plaatsen creeren

Extra space for 800 children in Antwerp

Though by the ciphers of nativity and immigration the government should have been warned that it was going to face a spacing problem. In 2007 the teacher magazine wrote already about the “explosive schools” in Flanders.

From the figures of Agion, the Agency for Infrastructure for the Education, it appears that in 2010 furrow 170 million Euros at school building files were approved. Agion is a public institution under the supervision of the Flemish Minister of Education, currently Mr. Pascal Smet, and headed by the administrator-general, Henri Duqué. The organisation has the responsibility of subsidizing the purchase, the construction and the renovation of schoolbuildings. The agency fulfils this assignment on behalf of the Flemish subsidized educational institutions, the scholastic aptitude test centres and the boarding-schools, both for the public and for the private sector. AGIOn does not subsidize the entire school building project; the subsidy amounts to 70 % for primary education and to 60 % for secondary education. The board of school governors can finance the part which is not subsidized by means of a guaranteed loan.

P1120552.JPG

Kikkerkasteel prepares containers for the kindergarten

About half of that went to smaller pin counts, hurry investments and investments that should make the schools a little bit more ecofriendly and saving on energy.  Only 66 million Euros were left over for real (far) building investments and 19 million Euros for the purchase of buildings.  The regular budget plans now a 95 million Euro for school building. On the other hand we can find 2,501 files for a total sum of 2,488 million Euros.  That resembles a drop on a hot plate.  Many school administrations anticipate well.  They serve their file in a few year too early.

However this does not solves the capacity problem yet.  Antwerp’s alderman for education, Robert Voorhamme says: “Because of demographic developments, we’ll soon be facing structural challenges.”

People were lucky with the success in finding places for everyone this year, but not only with the shortage of teachers an other underlying problem is shown. There were we can find concentration schools or a balance to more migrant pupils then autochton there are more problems in the schools and more teachers leaving the job. In such schools more aggression and bullying can be found too.

Clearly it gets five to twelve when we notice that 30,000 teachers in Belgium as a whole have taken out an insurance policy against violence inside and outside of school. The policy, which costs €25 for one school year, has been offered by Ethias for 12 years, but has seen a burst of growth in recent years. This year’s figure is 3,000 more than 2008. At the same time, the education ministry’s violence reporting unit said 217 incidents were reported to them in the 2010-2011 school year, an increase of 10% over the previous year. But we do have to be aware that mostly the majority of the claims are kept internally in each section of the system.

Could it be that 1 out of 4 kids is Bullied

Among all the types of school violence, the most common is fighting and bullying.  Such incidents are even happening in elementary schools.  In towns we also do find a lot of gang rivalry. The problems with those gangs, mostly with children of foreign origin, is that they try to get materials from the other pupils which they can sell on the street market. But everywhere we can find more thefts, even the teachers loose things stolen by their pupils.

Often we get the impression that the directors and police are blind for the possessing and bringing of illegal drugs to school, but they pose a serious issue for both the school administration and the Federal Department.  Junior members of a gang (normally secondary and senior students) get their supply of drugs from other local members of the gang.

Sexual harassment is a type of school violence that is more common in sub-urban and rural schools.  This type of school violence is clearly the most difficult to handle by any school administration because of its sensitive nature.  As such, to protect the schools name and prestige and also the reputation of its school administration, such occurrence of sexual harassment are censored and kept a secret.

Artroom damage - Photo by Annie Russell.

Not only in big places we do find vandalism. Also in the rural community schools we can find this type of school violence. And it is not just the drawing graffiti on the wall the schools have to encounter.  The whole year through furniture, electronic material and other things are intentionally damaged or completely destroyed, often just for the sake of having fun.

Some migrant pupils also like the fun of bulling the teacher. And, I am afraid, this is a growing problem, where a firm hand is needed. The violent child harms not only the students and teachers but they create trouble for school’s environment. Normally teachers are in the ideal position to help prevent student violence if they have the right information and tools at their disposal, but they are not given enough rights on this matter to tackle it properly. The frustration about this is also getting more teacher quitting their job because more and more they are feeling that they are busy babysitting instead of bringing over knowledge. Building nurturing teaching and learning environments rather than the typical prescriptives like increased security and metal detectors are with discipline the needed matters.

1 op 14 leerlingen heeft wapen in de klas

1 on 14 pupils carries a weapon

Though most of the schools do everything so that the outside world does not get to know the bad things that happened in the school, leaks and the many things the parents just can see  and hear, are already enough for a lot of parents not wanting to place their children in a school full of immigrants. The parents want to find a school which can have a safe, calm, orderly and harmonious atmosphere which will reinforce the their child’s independence and natural urge toward self-development.
Feeling the pressure of the diminishing local native pupils directors also become hesitant to take more pupils of which their parents can not speak Dutch, are not seem to be accustomed to our traditions and way of life.

In Brussels, some 38,000 pupils at all levels were accommodated in Dutch-speaking schools, though not necessarily their first choice of school. According to Jean-Luc Vanraes, president of the College of the Flemish Community Commission in Brussels, there are no places left for children of parents who are not Dutch speaking but still want to send their children to Flemish schools, despite up to 20 requests a day.

Teachers are perhaps still too afraid to speak out, except when they are out of the system, but parents, , and a number of students come out to speak about their frustration, desperation, and anger in the face of repeated failures by the authorities to address safety and climate in city schools. Requests for assistance despite escalating violence inside and outside the school do not always find measures taken to bring a halt to the problems which do not only stay in the school but terrorises the whole environment around the school.

City leaders have to denounce ethnic and youngster violence “publicly, swiftly, and passionately.” If schools have the will, they will find the way to reduce ethnic tension – no matter what happens outside. If they keep to strict human righteous rules and really teach their pupils what is accepted in a community and what not, we can grow to safe schools again and an environment where we can teach all sorts of different people to live together in peace and unity.

The directors of the school should be less interested in the right amount of students and more in creating the right atmosphere to get a good fertilised ground giving good opportunities to everybody to climb up on the social ladder and to find a good job. they should take more care that students and staff can feel welcome, included, and safe, both physically and emotionally. This can be done by creating a positive climate and when good things happen in the school: attendance is high, academic achievement is high, peer conflict is minimal so detentions, suspensions, and expulsions are low. Staff can focus more on educating, and less on control and punishment.

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Please do find:

  • School Violence (education.com)
    Despite these data and years of progress in violence prevention, schools are not as safe as practitioners would like them to be (Braaten, 2004).
  • If Teachers Could Speak Freely (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
    [Teachers] have to coddle parents and school boards and whiners of all sorts who mistakenly think that being a teacher means being the doormat of the incompetent folk who never should have had children in the first place.
  • Teachers ‘falsifying pupils’ marks’ to inflate school results (telegraph.co.uk)
    Belgium is not the only country where teachers are routinely falsifying pupils’ marks amid pressure from senior managers to inflate schools’ results.
  • Exam grades are doctored to meet targets, admit teachers (independent.co.uk)
    Management are telling teachers that pupils should be achieving at a certain level and some teachers are then feeling forced into saying that they have achieved it, whether or not this is appropriate.
  • Leading article: A fraud on all our pupils (independent.co.uk)
    teachers, who are often accused of “teaching to the test”, were, in effect, testing to the target. They felt under pressure to show that their pupils were progressing, even if they were not, and adjusted their grading accordingly.
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    Pupils are encouraged to believe they are performing better than they are; parents are being additionally misled about the quality of teachers and schools. The result is inflated grades and a fiction of attainment that collapses as soon as these ill-served school-leavers face the real world.
  • Top marks for good behaviour (independent.co.uk)
    [excluded children] will be driven into crime, drugs, substance abuse or alcohol participation or rioting in the streets…
    schools should retain responsibility for the education of excluded youngsters. “Headteachers may not like it because they may have thought they had got rid of their troublemakers ,”
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About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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