Teachers Who Fled War-Ravaged Schools Find Work in German Classrooms

Former educators from Syria are getting trained to work in the school system in their new home.
A Syrian refugee teacher instructs refugee students. (Photo: Volkan Kasik/Getty Images)
Apr 15, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Migrants fleeing violence and destruction in their native countries are often forced to leave their entire lives behind—and that includes their careers. One German university is hoping it can help get asylum seekers back to work and help child refugees in the process.

The University of Potsdam commenced its Refugee Teachers Program this week, Reuters reports. The university trains asylum seekers who worked as teachers in their home countries to work in German schools, free of charge.

“I was very happy that there is a course specifically for refugees who are teachers— that’s what I want,” Alaa Kassab, one of the student teachers, told The Associated Press. The 23-year-old taught English to children in Aleppo, Syria, and moved to Germany last year.

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More than 700 people applied for the teaching program at the university, located about 45 minutes outside of Berlin. The school was only able to accept 25 students for the first term, but officials hope to bring on an additional 50 by the year’s end.

The 11-month program begins with intensive German-language courses. After six months spent studying the language, the student teachers will learn about the German educational system and visit local schools.

Completion of the program is documented with a certificate, which isn’t the same as a German teaching credential. But university officials note that there is a high demand for educators who are able to communicate with refugee children.

Of the more than 1 million people who registered as asylum seekers in Germany last year, hundreds of thousands are children. Education officials estimate that nearly 200,000 kids entered the German school system in 2016.

“We realized that a lot of the refugees had a background in teaching, and refugee children have to go to German schools,” Andreas Musil, vice president for teaching at the University of Potsdam, told Reuters. “We saw this as a chance to use their cultural similarities and offer refugee children someone they can speak to.”