Special School Department for Children of Asylum Seekers Proposed

A report by a city committee on the reception and integration of children of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers proposes that a special support department be created in Vogasel near Vogaskóli school in Reykjavík. At the suggestion of the committee, children coming from other countries would be schooled for no more than 9 months at the department, before going to school in their own districts, Vísir reports.

This special department would be created for children ages 8 to 15 that require special assistance in starting studies in one of Iceland’s elementary schools. It would be implemented to especially meet the demands of children of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Helgi Grímsson, director of Reykjavík city’s Department of Education and Youth, says this would mean better support and easier access to professionals for these children and their families.

“It is of the utmost importance that we provide this group with the nourishment and shelter they need. If we immediately scatter this group amongst different schools, it’s possible we wouldn’t be able to provide them with the professional help they require,” Helgi says.

Helga Helgadóttir, director of special education at Vogaskóli school is not thrilled with the committee’s proposal. She says it is counter to how Vogaskóli works and as far as she’s concerned it’s not in compliance with elementary school laws nor The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Iceland’s elementary school laws stipulate that no student should be discriminated against due to their country of origin, and that children have the inalienable right to study in the country’s schools without discrimination.

Asked whether their proposals don’t run the risk of discrimination against children of immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers, Helgi says that these are children that do need special attention in order to be able to thrive in Iceland’s school system and that study without discrimination is something Reykjavík city takes very seriously. He further states that they try to meet the needs of every child, something they are trying to do with this new proposal.

As Iceland Review previously reported, asylum seekers protested in downtown Reykjavík yesterday, calling for fair treatment and the abolition of the European Union’s Dublin Regulation amongst other things.

Parents On Crossing Guard Duty After Teen Hit by Car

Reykjavík baby

Parents and school staff in the Vesturbær neighborhood on the west side of Reykjavík are on high alert after a thirteen-year-old was hit by a car while walking to school this week, RÚV reports. The same afternoon, city officials stationed a crossing guard at the accident site to make street crossings safer for schoolchildren, but just to be safe, neighborhood parents have also taken up an informal watch.

The victim, who luckily did not sustain any serious injuries during the event, was hit at the intersection of Hringbraut and Meistaravellir at 9.00am on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, neighborhood residents, such as Ólöf Jakobsdóttir and her husband and father, stationed themselves at different points along the busy street in the early morning hours. The new crossing guard is intended to be stationed at Hringbraut and Meistaravellir until the spring, but Ólöf says she intends to personally monitor traffic and pedestrians at her corner, Framnesvegur and Hringbraut, until they feel sure that local children will be safe.

Parents Take Up Watch

“[We’ll be here] for a while, at least,” Ólöf confirmed, “and we hope that [other] parents take some part in this, too. We’re going to do it, at least, me and my husband. My dad, a grandfather, is up for coming out and keeping watch there, too. Maybe until we see that it’s in place, this crossing guard patrol, that the city’s providing. Just until we feel safe about stopping.”

Ólöf also believes that the traffic lights at intersections along Hringbraut should be adjusted so that all traffic comes to a stop when the walk sign is green.

Margrét Einarsdóttir, the principal of Vesturbæjarskóli elementary school, also came out to monitor traffic along Hringbraut this morning. “Everything went well this morning and there was also a police officer on site…But of course this issue needs to be examined more closely – [traffic] speed, etc. And we’ve been doing that for a number of years – that’s not lacking.”

School Lacked Funding for Crossing Guard

Crossing guard duty in the area is actually under the purview of a school employee. But although the school had previously received requests for a crossing guard at Hringbraut and Meistaravellir, Margrét says that the city had not provided funding for this until the accident occurred on Wednesday. She says that local residents have been complaining about traffic conditions along Hringbraut for many years.

A working group led by the City of Reykjavík’s Environment and Planning Committee did in fact publish a report in January 2017 which proposed, among other things, that the speed of traffic west of Kringlumýrarbraut be lowered by 10 km/hr in two areas where the current speed limit is 50-60km/h (31-37mi/h). It was also suggested that pedestrian paths along streets where the speed limit is 40-50km/h (25-31mi/h), such as the section of Hringbraut where the child was hit, be raised and more clearly marked.

Police will hold a meeting with residents next week to discuss traffic along Hringbraut.

Thief Steals Children’s Coats

A thief snuck into Vesturbæjarskóli elementary school on Thursday morning and stole coats belonging to eleven students, RÚV reports. Police have been alerted, but so far, there are no leads on the perpetrator or the stolen winterwear.

The thief came in through an entrance that faces Framnesvegur. In an email to parents, school principal Margrét Einarsdóttir wrote that in light of the incident, that entrance would henceforth be locked after children arrive in the morning and that the school would also be reviewing its security.

Free Hot Meals for Schoolchildren an “Equality Issue”

The elementary school in the East Iceland village of Eskifjörður is working to reduce the cost of school lunches for its students and hopes to soon make all hot meals free, RÚV reports. The principal considers free hot lunches a “very important equality issue” facing the Fjarðarbyggð municipality as a whole.

Currently, students in the Fjarðarbyggð municipality pay ISK 450 [$4.06; €3.49] a day for lunches, which in Eskifjörður, generally include fish. This comes out to roughly ISK 9,000 [$81.23; €69.91] a month per student. Principal Birgir Jónsson says that it’s come to the school’s attention, however, that not all families can afford the monthly cost of school lunches and so choose to send their children with bag lunches instead. Some parents may have other reasons for sending their kids to school with bag lunches, he acknowledges, but there are special occasions where eating a hot meal together is more of a social event, and all students should be able to take part then. “We’ve noticed that especially when there’s something like pizza or things like that, then, of course, everyone wants to [have the hot lunch].”

As a first step to addressing the problem, therefore, the school will be reducing the cost of school lunches to ISK 300 [$2.70; €2.33] starting on October 1, 2018. The intention, says Fjarðarbyggð town council foreman Eydís Ásbjörnsdóttir, is to ensure that “…all kids are sitting at the same table and have the chance to get a hot and nutritious meal.”

The municipality is taking steps to make school lunches completely free within the current election cycle.