Teaching migrant children, one day at a time

Many refugee children don’t speak any German. Many have also been traumatised by what they’ve experienced. This poses a special challenge for teachers in Switzerland. (SRF/

This content was published on September 26, 2015

Since last autumn 150 people have been living in the Schaffhausen transit centre in the Emmenthal. Among them, 20 children. Every day they travel to the school in the neighboring village, accompanied by three mothers. The children have come a long way: Eritrea, the Ukraine, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Syria. 

The refugee children are in a class of their own, since many don’t know any German. Marc-André Perrin teaches the smaller children. He starts with the basics. It’s hard to plan ahead, since the teachers have no clue how long each child will stay. New children arrive overnight. And they can disappear just as suddenly, when their families are relocated or their asylum requests get rejected. 

The primary school used to have 160 pupils. When the transit center opened an extra class quickly had to be started up. The teachers are regularly confronted with what their pupils have experienced in the past. It could take a while for these children to feel at home here. And some maybe never will. But every school day brings them a little closer to this country.

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