"White students needed": Amsterdam schools plead for integration

White enough for you
A student wearing a shirt that reads, "Is this white enough for you?" part of an outreach to make white parents more comfortable with two multicultural schools in Amsterdam (photo: Asko Schools). (A student wearing a shirt that reads, "Is this white enough for you?" part of an outreach to make white parents more comfortable with two multicultural schools in Amsterdam (photo: Asko Schools))

With reporting by Zack Newmark.

Two elementary schools in Amsterdam Zuid, each with predominately darker-skinned students, are planning to send their pupils on the streets of Amsterdam wearing bright white t-shirts with the slogan, "Is this white enough for you?" written on them. The blunt message is meant to raise awareness for the schools, while encouraging more white parents to enroll their children at the two locations.

in De Pijp and in Rivierenbuurt are facing decreasing pupil numbers and if they can not boost the class numbers , the schools will face closure in due time. One of the largest school boards in the city, Asko, decided to intervene with a rather unconventional method. Besides the statement at the front, the t-shirts will also have the text, "Every child has the right to integration," on the back, Asko said in a statement released to media.

They will hand out flyers that say, "Straight to the point: we are looking for more white students." The schools' websites are also temporarily "blacked-out," meant to convey moodiness instead of the normally cheery multi-coloured site design. An explanation on one site says, "That's important, because every child has a right to integration. And so every school should reflect society. That means Avonturijn urgently needs more white students."

The two schools are for . Former city alderman and current Labour MP Ahmed Marcouch is also supportive of the action, the school organization says.

Asko is well aware that they are poking a delicate subject and it is the board's intention to spark up a public debate. The chairman of Asko, Diane Middelkoop and her colleagues decided to take provocative action in order to make the schools more mixed.

"We regularly get ethnically-diverse parents in our office who insist that we do something that can integrate their children in preparation for the society where they themselves will soon join," Middelkoop stated.

"Avonturijn and St. Catharinaschool are both good schools, but mostly black in mixed neighbourhoods and that's really strange. A school should be a reflection of the neighbourhood," says Middelkoop's colleague Mirjam Leinders.

Middelkoop has seen the problems first hand. She tells of a parent from Egyptian descent who thought Avonturijn was "too black for my child" and wanted the child to grow among native Dutch children.

Some parents agree with the campaign, but others feel offended by it. "My stomach turned when I heard about this. I feel discriminated against. Why white children? We are also still Dutch," said Fatna El Guebli, a mother of three, to the Parool.

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