Syrian refugees in the Netherlands are setting up informal weekend schools all over the country to teach their children Arabic and, in some, about the Koran, the Volkskrant said on Tuesday.
Most of the several dozen schools are run by volunteers and teach between 20 and 100 children, the paper said.
Between 2014 and mid 2016, 44,000 Syrian refugees, around one third of them children, were given five-year residency permits. The aim of the schools, the volunteers say, is to make sure the children do not lose their Arabic culture as they integrate into the Netherlands.
‘Like all Syrians, we have a residency permit for five years and I don’t know what will happen then,’ Tarek Aldayeh, the chairman of the Pioneers foundation which organises weekend schools, told the paper.
‘If I don’t give my children extra lessons, they will never learn to read or write Arabic and how will they cope at school in Syria if the immigration service says we have to go back?’
Although Dutch officials assume most refugees will stay in the Netherlands, Syrian parents often think differently, the paper said. And parents sign their children up for Arabic lessons so they can maintain contact with family members in Syria or in other parts of Europe.
Cultural differences are another factor, Deema Akras, of the Joury school foundation told the paper. ‘Some girls no longer listen to their parents,’ she said. ‘We remind them about the role of mothers in our country and that they should be respected. But we also urge parents to act differently towards their children than they would in Syria.’
Trees Pels, a researcher with the Verwey-Jonker Institute, told the Volkskrant that weekend schools do not have to hinder integration.
‘It can be good for children’s development because they do not have to chose between the Dutch and the Arabic worlds,’ she said. ‘Cutting cultural links with the country of origin can damage children’s health and well-being in the long term.’