A Deep Rooted Discrimination Problem in German Schools

Sharon Otoo

A group in Berlin has come out to condemn discrimination in schools. The group, Open Society Foundation, has created a photo report of migrant parents and teachers talking about the discrimination their children/students have undergone during their time in German schools. (Download the report: Standing up for Equality in German Schools 2013 or read it online here.). Please take a minute and check it out. 

The books begins with the quote:

“No country wants to believe that it is failing its children in any way. It is difficult to imagine a government that would not support the idea of equal education for all. Germany is no exception. And yet, in Germany, children of varied ethnic and racial backgrounds have vastly different educational opportunities and experiences. It is clear that children from a “migration background” perform significantly worse at school than their native German counterparts. The term “migration background” covers children from families who are still perceived as “foreigners” because of their racial or ethnic identity, even though their families may have arrived in Germany years ago.”

Some of the anecdotes shared are really sad especially when you think it was done to children.

The one that resonated most with me was what Sharon Otoo (the lady pictured above) an author and mother of four said, “…the word ‘racism’ triggers such strong emotional reactions that these kinds of problems are rarely discussed, let alone resolved…”

“My son has always felt that he is a German. But now he’s been assigned to a segregated class for migrant children. it’s like they’re saying, “you don’t belong here.” “- Abit Kazci

“In my years of experience as a teacher I have observed again and again how, when it comes to recommending children to continuing higher education, family background is given special importance. A recommendation will read, “The family cannot support the child.” Or, “The child comes from a family not invested in education.“ I have also heard the throwaway comments—“stay with what you know,” “not everyone has to be an academic, we need garbage men, too” and so on. This basic attitude often continues in secondary schools and higher education, too.

But even this is a lie. If you come from a migrant background you can do everything right and still be rejected. I’ve had students tell me: “We can do everything right, speak excellent German, study hard. And still they refuse to let us be part of the ‘we.’” ” –  Evelin Lubig-Fohsel a teacher from Berlin

“When they first begin school, some are assigned to “German Guarantee classes,” where native German parents are guaranteed that their children will remain among themselves rather than be mixed with migrant children. ” – Norbert Böhnke, a teacher.

“I picked up my daughter from school and she told me about the song. “C-o-f-f-e-e, don’t drink so much coffee! The Turkish drink is not for kids, it weakens the nerves, makes you pale and sick. Don’t be like Muslim men who can’t stop drinking coffee!” ” – Didem Yüksel, a parent.

To prove to another person that discrimination really does exist is very hard. Even when you have examples, it’s hard to offer proof. I had good marks in primary school but they gave me a recommendation for Realschule. I wanted to try my luck in Gymnasium… Our English teacher was a racist, our geography teacher as well.  – Serpil C.

I went to an application interview with my parents. The director said outright, “We do not want immigrant children here. They will influence the German children to become worse students.” In the end, they only took me because my mother registered me for the Japanese language course. They needed people for the course, so they let me in.

The comment I heard all the time was, “You speak very good German.” Which is offensive, because it’s not meant as a compliment. The meaning is clear. “Wow, I’m surprised that as a foreigner you can speak such good German. And your parents, too…”

Once a teacher said, “Go back to where you came from.” I said to her: “I am where I came from. I come from Germany and I consider myself German.”  – Asal H.

“Once I gave a wrong answer in physics class and the teacher said, “That may be so in your desert, but not here in Germany.” – Somaia M.

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