Lesson in endurance: Syrian refugee teacher enters German school

February 11, 2018
Samaa Web Desk

FURSTENWALDE: Working at a German school is not just about reading and writing, maths and singing songs, says newly minted Syrian assistant teacher Hend al-Khabbaz.

She was surprised to discover there is also a mountain of paperwork and administrative tasks to perform.

The school “is better for the children, but it’s a lot of work for the teachers,” the 35-year-old says with a laugh, speaking in German which she has learnt since fleeing her war-torn homeland less than three years ago.

Khabbaz’s new workplace is the Sigmund Jaehn primary school in Fuerstenwalde, a town of drab pre-fabricated housing blocks in Germany’s formerly communist east, 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Berlin.

That’s around 3,500 kilometres from the home she left in Homs, Syria, where she taught English before boarding an overcrowded boat for her escape to Europe.

After a gruelling trek along the Balkans route, she requested asylum in Germany in September 2015, at the peak of a mass influx that has since brought more than a million refugees and migrants.

While Germany has struggled to integrate many of the newcomers, Khabbaz got a lucky break and through her hard work now has a full-time job in her profession.

She is one of the first graduates of Potsdam University’s pioneering Refugee Teachers Programme, which readies foreign teachers to enter the German school system.

Of the initial 700 applicants in 2016, 85 percent were Syrians.

“These are people who have had a good university education,” says Miriam Vock, the professor who initiated the programme.

“We want to give them the chance to be able to work again here.” – APP