School opens arms to gypsy pupils

8th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

8 September 2006, BRUSSELS — A request from the Beveren mayor for three primary schools to refuse enrolments from asylum seeker children has met with heated criticism and point-blank refusals.

8 September 2006

BRUSSELS — A request from the Beveren mayor for three primary schools to refuse enrolments from asylum seeker children has met with heated criticism and point-blank refusals.

The public school De Zonnewijzer in Kieldrecht simply said it has enrolled six Roma gypsy children despite the request to exclude them this year.

"De Zonnewijzer takes up its responsibility and chooses resolutely for the right to education for every child," the school said.

The school has 105 pupils. It already had two gypsy pupils last year and they are still enrolled this year.

"The newly registered students speak little or no Dutch. Enrolling more students at this small school would threaten the quality of education," it said.

The enrolments come despite a request from Beveren Mayor Marc Van de Vijver for the three Kieldrecht primary schools to stop accepting asylum seeker children.

The Christian Democrat CD&V mayor was referring to the 35 to 40 children of rejected asylum seeker Roma gypsy families squatting in Doel. He said the children should not be enrolled at school because they don’t speak Dutch.

"That would completely disrupt the social basis in Kieldrecht with all the consequences of such," he said.

But Flemish Education Minister Frank Vandenbroucke was extremely surprised by the mayor's statement and said it was in breach of the law.

"Children in Flanders, irrespective of their situation, must be enrolled and a school cannot refuse them," he said.

Vandenbroucke also said the gypsy children were better off in school then on the street and that the Beveren mayor would solved nothing by sending them to other schools.

He said agreements should be made instead with other schools and school networks to ensure a better spread of asylum seekers.

A school risks disciplinary action if it refuses students. If a complaint is lodged with the Commission for Students Rights and the school continues to refuse students, it stands to lose its public funding.

But in response to the criticism, the Beveren municipal council defended itself by saying the sudden enrolment of 40 foreign-speaking children would exceed the capacity of the Kieldrecht schools and lead to an intolerable situation.

The council said it was confronted with an unacceptable situation and that it was trying to raise awareness to the problem and to find an acceptable solution for the gypsy families.
The families are living in poor conditions in the village of Doel and are threatened with imminent eviction as part of an action plan aimed at clearing all of the squatted houses in Doel. 

The council is now investigating other possibilities of shelter and guidance for foreign-speaking children.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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