1. GA-English

Resistance from teachers, students and parents: The International Class at the Päda in Bonn is threatened with extinction

Resistance from teachers, students and parents : The International Class at the Päda in Bonn is threatened with extinction

The International Preparatory Class at the Päda is a great success. Now, however, it is threatened with closure in the summer of 2021 for financial reasons. Teachers, parents and students are fighting to keep it going.

The Otto Kühne School, also known as Pädagogium (Päda), plans to close its International Preparatory Class at the end of the school year. This was confirmed by managing director Klaus Otto Kühne when asked by the GA. "As a private alternative school, we have successfully and naturally participated for five years in introducing foreign young people to the German school system in order to help integrate them later as individuals into the German education system at the appropriate place," explains Kühne.

This happened thanks to the active support of teachers, parents, students and volunteers. The class has enriched everyday school life for everyone involved. "Now we are ending this project in the summer of 2021 and know that this task is in good hands in the public schools of Bonn." According to the minutes of the last school board meeting, the decision was made for financial reasons.

Apparently, however, the Päda pupil representation (SV) and the parent representation do not want to simply accept the closure. "We would like to speak out strongly against the discontinuation of the preparatory class," the SV addressed Kühne. The cultural diversity of the class not only contributes to a better school community, but also gives the Päda "the positive image of a school that stands for integration", they argue.

For many young people who have had to give up their old lives, this class has given them support and security. "We cannot take this new perspective away from these pupils again." Quite a few of them have been integrated into everyday school life, some have successfully graduated from Päda and are now in training. "And many more are on a good path there," the students remind us.

At the last board meeting, some of the Päda parents said that the school authorities' communication was "surprising" and that they would have liked to have been informed in advance. Then there would have been a willingness to provide private support, if necessary. There is a list of pupil signatures in favour of keeping the class.

They are thinking of starting private fundraising. Päda teacher Ursula Coester, who supervises the class, confirms on request that she does not consider the project to be definitively discontinued. The responsible body has decided for economic reasons. After all, "the state's refinancing does not cover 100 per cent of the costs for any alternative school. Only if she now succeeds in presenting a conclusive financing concept for the remaining costs will she consider a re-evaluation at the Päda.

Application to the Ministry of Education

"I have already submitted an application to the school ministry and am pleased about the great support of the parents," explains Coester. Perhaps there will be other sponsorship ideas. "It would be more than a shame to discontinue such a well-developed and functioning structure as our International Preparatory Class."

And then she talks about the beginnings in 2015, when there was a school shortage for unaccompanied young refugees in Bonn and she founded the Päda class in cooperation with the youth centre "Maria im Walde". It was always about learning the German language and integration, but also socialisation in a school community, Coester reports, "especially for the majority Muslim refugees in terms of dealing with rules with the opposite sex, with values like respect and tolerance.“

All-day programme on three days

Yes, she has always put her heart and soul into this work, says Coester. "Never in the course of my 25 years of school work have I worked with so much conviction on a project as I did on this one." As a substitute school, the Päda has been able to structure learning content and school processes in a meaningful way. There is an all-day programme three days a week. An imam from the Liberal-Islamic Federation gives intercultural religious instruction. "The school ministry has been failing for years to introduce such lessons."

Coester established a cooperation with the training preparation classes at the Friedrich-List-Berufskolleg. "In total, we have educated over 90 students in our class in the five years and successfully continued them in all directions. I consider that a great success." So also because Päda is a school in a socially and economically strong location, she believes it is an important task to make this resource available to the weaker members of society.

The school authority regrets the possible closure of the welcome class at the Päda, explains Jennifer Martin as specialist advisor Integration through Education. "The cooperation with Ursula Coester and the social commitment of this school in private sponsorship represent an enrichment in the context of initial support for children and young people."

Original text: Ebba Hagenberg-Miliu

Translation: Mareike Graepel