Report: Dutch schools unprepared for child refugees

Refugees at the Lebanon-Syria border (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/H. Murdock). (Child asylum seekers (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/H. Murdock))

Kids who receive asylum in the Netherlands have to find a place in a school within in three days, but Dutch primary schools are completely unprepared for the arrival of large numbers of child refugees.

This is according to the PO-Raad, the umbrella organization for primary education in the Netherlands, in newspaper Trouw on Tuesday. "Between now and a month from now we are going to have a serious problem", a spokesperson said to the newspaper.

Due to the family reunification regulation for Syrian refugees, a relatively large number of refugee children are entering the Netherlands. A quarter to a third of the asylum seekers are kids. There are currently about 5,500 kids under the age of 12 in the asylum centers. These kids are getting lessons in primary schools connected to the centers.

According to education aid organization Lowan, the problem arises when families get a home elsewhere in the country. Kids then have to be registered in a school in the neighborhood. These schools often have no experience in teaching kids who speak no Dutch.

According to Rinda den Besten of the PO-Raad, it sometimes happens that a refugee child shows up at a school on a Monday, while that school was only informed about his or her arrival on the Friday night. "Such a school can then not provide Dutch lessons." Shrinking school areas also face big problems, with the only proper possibilities for refugee kids often being kilometers away. "And the municipality does not always pay for pupil transportation." According to Den Besten, this results in refugee kids being unable to attend school for weeks, or even months.

Refugee organization Vluchtelingenwerk often helps with finding a school, but they are not responsible for the kids' education. Schools and municipalities also have a certain duty to care, but it completely unclear who has to fulfill this duty when. A spokesperson for the Association of Dutch Municipalities confirmed to the newspaper that arranging education is not a priority at this stage. "We currently want to provide refugees particularly with housing."