Another way of looking at last week

After writing my last post, I thought it would have deserved a mention of what last week was made of apart from the work I had to catch on. So here goes, for completeness’ sake –

I sent in my habilitation on Friday last week and came across my children’s school director an hour later when I was there fetching my son. She mentioned the needs identified by the teachers of refugee children (now about 40 at our school) for next year: a translator coming to school at least once a month to help communicating with parents, and additional coaching in maths and english. I contacted the local network to ask if there was a possibility to benefit from donations in order to put these two things in place. I went to their organisation meeting the next day and discussed the modalities; I also heard what the overall local situation is with camps closing and others, more viable ones, opening further away, which means that children will have much longer school ways from next year on.

On the next day, I turned to the one Syrian mother I am coaching more closely. She is a sports teacher (her son is at my children’s school since December) and the school director helped me organise an internship for her at the school. I wanted to negotiate a prolongation of the internship, but for some obscure reasons, it is limited to 6 weeks. We went to the Employment Office together and I had the chance to run into the boss and clarify things with her. They had lost the internship papers. I promised to have them sent over, signed again by the director, by friday.

In the meantime, additional preparation turned out to be necessary for the 3 refugee children who will go to class trip next week with the 2 regular classes to which they have been integrated after Easter. Some paperwork was missing. One child’s family has their court appointment deciding on their staying or not on the first day of the class trip. Also, the child doesn’t have any vaccination record, which does not make any sense considering the amount of mandatory medical appointment it must have had since it arrived. No time to look into this for this time. The parents of this child seem not to be learning German, they don’t speak English either. For the first time in months, French came in handy.

On Thursday, 32 degrees and a school sports tournament – I met with the school’s friend association members and discussed the way we could arrange paying for a translator and support teachers through donations.

On Friday, the director signed the internship papers. The last papers necessary for the school trip were brought by the father (the one who speaks only French), who in turn asked for a paper saying that the child could not go to the court appointment due to the class trip, which the teacher wrote and the director signed in the course of the morning. At 2:30 PM on Friday everything seemed to finally be in place – we keep fingers crossed for no additional problem popping up in front of the class trip bus on Monday morning, but basically everything seems to be working at this end.

But in the course of my trip to the Employment office with the Syrian sports teacher, she told me that her diplomas were currently in Geneva and she was looking for a way to transport them to Berlin. I asked a friend whose parents live in Geneva and who will be visiting next week, and they can bring the diplomas.  I somehow hope to manage to have said diplomas recognised by a University so that she can really work at some point. Also, her language school should have had assigned her a new class like 6 weeks ago and didn’t, so that I looked for another language school that would be able to integrate her as soon as possible. Her level assessment at the new school is on Tuesday, we have to go get her documentation from the old school tomorrow, and then she can start immediately in the fitting class.

I could leave the conclusion to you, the most obvious one is the still incredibly acute need for volunteers in the whole process. But the real conclusion is how connected solidarity networks really are. I would never be able to achieve so much in such a short time if it weren’t for the widespread solidarity network that has constituted itself over the summer and autumn 2015. There were old friends involved, of course. But most of the people I reached out to last week are either other mothers from my kids’ school who started helping out in August or other people I met while volunteering at the camp between August and October. These people react within 5 minutes and activate all they can. It is amazing.

What is less amazing is the energy it takes to integrate people who are willing and whose qualifications are actually needed. But this takes more than one week…


Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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