French School Refuses Chechen Children
The French daily newspaper “Le Monde” has reported that 21 children of Chechen asylum seekers, ages 3-11 have been denied enrollment at a school in a small town, not far from the French capital city of Paris since May 2011.
According to the report, as asylum seekers these children have already had a difficult path. They have dreamt about being in school since their arrival in France between May and September 2011. Instead, they must spend their days in one of the town’s low-cost hotels. Their parents were denied space in the local homeless shelter, which is too overcrowded to accommodate them. Thus, on May 3 at 8:15 am, right groups including Amnesty International in France, the French Human Rights League (la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme), and Education without Borders (Réseau Education Sans Frontières), organized a protest in front of the Claudine Fabrici Elementary School in the town of “Rubelles“, which has 1,900 residents. Around 50 people, including the parents, gathered there and protested the ridiculous claims that there is not enough space for these 21 asylum seeker children from the Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and Russia’s Republic of Ingushetia. The protesters call it a case of blatant discrimination.
“These asylum-seeking families did all that was required to send their children to school, but the town council refused to give them an enrollment certificate,” said Nicole Fautrel from the French Human Rights League.
“The elders were accepted into colleges and high schools. In fact it wouldn’t be a problem for these children too. However, for the children access to the elementary school is blocked. The Mayor refuses their attendance to the school and finds new excuses every time. First, she cited a lack of resources, facilities, and funding. There have been exchanges between the municipality and the national education board. The situation changed a bit in January when two special teachers were sent twice in one week, which isn’t enough. Then her excuse became the language barrier. What is she going to use as an excuse next time?” said Margot Cimic from Amnesty International.
The town’s deputy mayor, Michel Dreano, describes the situation as a budget problem. “We can’t take on so many non-French speaking children. We have just eight classes for about 210 students. We cannot accommodate other students, moreover they need CLIN classes (an introductory class for non-francophones)” he said, hinting at the absence of a qualified staff to handle the situation.
However, an inspector from the Seine-et-Marne Academy, Patricia Galeazzi, finds this argument to be totally untrue. “There are still places available in the schools in Rubelles. These 21 children will not be in the same class, but instead they will be distributed to the kindergarten and other classes. Therefore there shouldn’t be a problem in finding places for them immediately,” she said and called on the directors to fulfill their duties.
One of the school’s teachers also finds the claims to be nonsense. According to her, its all the more absurd since “children of that age learn new languages very easily” and they should be in the school not in the corridors of a cheap hotel.
We didn’t mention the universal entitlement to education, “Right to Education”, but we note that since the late 19th century, France is credited with establishing the first system of free and mandatory public education. In this sense, the French authorities are responsible even according to their own law, yet they refuse to enroll the Chechen and Ingush asylum seeking children.
*Text was written by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco