Director of the Nude primary school Wageningen
'Black schools' are a hot topic at the moment in the Netherlands. Some of the schools are being closed down, but not because of a lack of pupils. Parents of both Dutch as well as non-Dutch children do not like 'black' schools. They are afraid the teaching programmes are 'backwards'. Wb spoke to the director of the Nude Primary School in Wageningen.
"We think of our school in the Nude-district in Wageningen as an 'international' school," Monique Bongers, the director of the Nude-school emphasises. "We have 130 pupils of 24 different nationalities. Most of them have parents who are students at Wageningen University. Of course all the different languages don't make teaching an easy job. We have to be very flexible. However, our team has been trained to deal with children of different languages and cultures. We specialise in this and find it very inspiring."
There are children from Mexico, Panama, Brazil, China, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Portugal, Indonesia, Suriname and Somalia, to name just some of the countries. A special teacher is responsible for the new pupils. "They get a very quick Dutch course, just enough so they can find their own coat hook and read the bathroom signs. Every morning we place them in the classrooms for about thirty minutes. You cannot expect a child to sit and follow Dutch lessons for five hours a day! So, after 30 minutes they go back to their Dutch classes, but at least they have met the other pupils. The parents who come to Wageningen University are very busy with their own schedules. When they arrive in Wageningen on Saturday, they expect their child to start school straight away on Monday morning! That is very hard on the children."
The Nude-school has a 'prolonged programme', from 12.30 to 2 o'clock for extra Dutch lessons; it is standard procedure and free of charge. In group 6 (ten-year-olds) they also start English lessons. Sometimes the children from other countries are ahead with their arithmetic or started school at an earlier age. These children can join the class during the arithmetic lessons. They make friends and pick up the language very quickly.
When the parents have finished their studies in Wageningen and go back home or to another country, the children receive a 'certificate' from the Nude School, which will help when choosing the new school. Often the children who have followed the Dutch school programme also take lessons in their original language at home. Before going back, they can take a public exam, for instance in the Arabic language, in one of the bigger towns in the Netherlands.
Religion is not taught at the primary school, but once a week a teacher from the Humanist Educational Centre talks about the different religions and cultures with group 6. The Christmas party is celebrated without nativity scenes. Instead the parents bring specialties from their home country for the dinner party at the school. "And the children are not allowed to say 'yuck!' if they don't like it, they have to learn to respect other cultures!"
The director would like to have closer contact with the university, for the benefit of children and students. "At least 75% of our pupils know how frustrating it is to arrive in a classroom where you can't speak to anybody! Fortunately most of the people who come to Wageningen speak English so we can communicate with them. After a while though it is the child who often becomes the interpreter; very important for practical things like "Mum, tomorrow I need my swimming things!"
Photo Guy Ackermans