Students Keep Busy, Give Back at Summer Work School

The School of Work was established with the mission of providing young people with something to do over the summer and, more broadly, to prepare them for the labour market. The first School of Work was opened in Reykjavík in 1951, but since then, many towns around the country have followed suit with their own schools. This week, RÚV spoke to spoke to students at Árbæjarskóli who are taking part in the popular program.

Outdoor work, positive messages

The School of Work is open to students in 8th – 10th grade. Per the City of Reykjavík website, its main function “is to provide students…with constructive summer jobs, as well as education in a safe working environment.” All work is paid and takes place outdoors, and most jobs focus on small public service projects—gardening and maintenance. Hours depend on the student’s age; 8th grades work 3.5 hours a day, either in the morning or afternoon, while 9th and 10th graders work full, seven-hour shifts. Generally, participants are grouped with students from their school, although not necessarily their close friends, as organizers “believe it is healthy for everyone to meet new people and work with someone other than their closest friends.”

In addition to their work duties, students participate in discussions and team-building games lead by peer educators from Hitt Húsið’s Peer Education Center. These activities “seek, among other things, to enhance the teenagers’ self-image.”

Helps students get used to the responsibility of having a job

Students Ólöf and Jón weeded, designed, and replanted a flower bed at the Árbær Open Air Museum. This is the bed before. (Photo via Vinnuskóli Reykjavíkur, FB)

“I applied mainly to earn money to go abroad and have something to spend, and also just to have something to do over the summer,” said Hera Arnadóttir. Hera said the Work School is pretty fun, although she doesn’t like the spiders and bugs.

Students Ólöf and Jón weeded, designed, and replanted a flower bed at the Árbær Open Air Museum. This is the bed after. (Photo via Vinnuskóli Reykjavíkur, FB)

Oddur Sverrisson was busy pulling up chickweed when approached for an interview. He said the Work School is important for young people because it provides them with a routine, teaches them how to manage the money they earn, and get used to the responsibility of having a job.

Fewer Icelandic Teens Drinking and Having Sex

teenagers nauthólsvík summer sun

In 2006, 36% of Icelandic girls in the 10th grade stated that they had had intercourse, and 29% of boys of the same age. Those figures have now fallen to 24% among girls and 27% among boys, Fréttablaðið reports. Less than one in five 15-year-old boys in Iceland stated they used a condom the last time they had intercourse.

The data comes from an international survey called Health Behaviour in School-aged Children, which has been carried out in Iceland since 2006. The survey’s fundings indicate that one-fourth of 15-year-old boys and one-sixth of 15-year-old girls have had intercourse. Iceland’s results show that one-third fewer girls report having had sex than in 2006, and slightly fewer boys.

Decreased alcohol consumption likely a factor

“Sexual activity is a natural accompaniment of puberty that adolescents go through. The first steps can, however, be complicated and if they are taken before the individual is ready, the consequences can be negative,” explains University of Iceland Professor Ársæll Arnarsson, who is a director of Icelandic youth research. He conjectures that less alcohol consumption among teenagers could be one reason they are having less sex.

The COVID pandemic is certainly not the reason, Ársæll says, as “this development began before it appeared. Decreased alcohol consumption is likely a big factor. Drinking among Icelandic teenagers has decreased sharply in recent decades and the same can be said of other countries to which we compare ourselves, though the development there has not been as decisive as here in Iceland.”

Condom use far lower than international average

Condom use among youth varies significantly between countries, the survey results show. In Europe and North America, 61% of sexually active youth used a condom the last time they had intercourse. While the proportion in Malta was 52%, it was just 8% in Denmark. Just 18% of 15-year-old boys in Iceland stated that they used a condom the last time they had intercourse, which Ársæll calls disappointing. “This of course manifests in higher rates of sexually transmitted infections here in Iceland. The condom is, in addition to being a contraceptive, very good protection against that type of infection.”

More Young People Apply for Summer Work School in North Iceland

The Akureyri Work School, which provides summer work for young people in the North Iceland town doing a variety of public improvement projects, has had 50% more applications this year than last, RÚV reports. A total of 696 young people applied for work opportunities through the work school; all applicants to the program are guaranteed paid work this summer.

The Akureyri Work School offers paid summer work opportunities for students who are 14, 15, 16-17, and 18-25 years old. The highest increase was among 17-year-old students: 126 in 2020, versus 38 last summer.

As the school received more applications than expected, it revised the parameters of its summer programs and in some cases, reduced the total number of summer working hours for an age bracket but extended the time period over which the hours would be completed in order to ensure that young people remain active throughout the summer.

Fourteen-year-old participants in the program will be offered 105 working hours over the summer; 15-year-olds, 120 hours; 16-year-olds 140 hours. The oldest age group, 17-year-olds, will be given 200 hours of work over the whole summer period. The municipality has also authorized 100 special summer jobs within institutions, museums, or companies to be opened to young people aged 18-25 and 121 applications were received for these positions.

Two Teenagers Hospitalised After Eating Morphine-Laced Gummy Bears

Two teenage girls, aged 13 and 14, were taken unconscious to the hospital this weekend after consuming gummy bears that had been laced with cannabis and morphine, reports a post on the Police in Suðurnes, South Iceland’s Facebook page. Both young women have now been discharged from the hospital and are recovering well.

Police determined that both girls were at the same place on the same evening and both were offered gummy bears by an older teenager who had himself bought the laced candy from an adult man. Neither of the young women knew what was in the candy when they ingested it.

“What we’re obviously talking about here is curiosity among young people,” read the Police post. “The parents of these kids asked us over and over where they got this stuff. Getting access to drugs is extremely easy and for anyone who has been shown how to do it, it only takes a few minutes to scrounge some up.”

The post continues to say that police interrogated the young man regarding the incident, who “was alarmed when he…realised the seriousness of the matter.” The parents of both young women are also working with the Child Protection Agency to address the situation and its implications with them.

“We want to encourage parents to discuss this with their children and educate them about the dangers that are out there,” continues the post, noting that with quick googling, almost anyone can easily make laced gummies in any shape they want. “Worse, however, is that it is possible to put whatever you want in it…You can, for instance, put all kinds of strong medications in it like Contalgin or Oxycontin and you don’t have to guess what the end result will be if a 13-year-old child ingests such a gummy.”

“Please discuss this with your children,” the post concludes, “and have the conversation.”

Film Course Aims to Give Young People a ‘Space Where They Can Be Free’

A film course taught by Lee Lynch, an American filmmaker living in Iceland, aims to both introduce young people to a broad range of experimental film as well as to give them the opportunity to create their own, mbl.is. Called “Teenage Wasteland of the Arts” (a title inspired by the song “Baba O’Reily” by the British badn The Who, the course which is now being offered for the sixth time at Hitt Húsið.

Lee, who holds a master’s from the University of Southern California and has shown his own films at festivals such as Sundance, Rotterdam, and Tribeca, says the class introduces students to “video art and sound art…and we look at New Wave filmmaking, theater, experimental animation, and sound collages.” In addition, students are given the opportunity to make their own video art and learn, among other things, how to produce and edit their own YouTube videos and use a variety of analog effects.

Lee says that film played an important and empowering role in his young life and he hopes it will do the same for his students. “…I was fourteen years old when I started making movies. Sometimes, I hated school and at that time, my parents were going through a difficult divorce. Filmmaking got me through that difficult time but I was the only teenager who was involved in stuff like that in the little town I grew up in. I hope to be able to offer young filmmakers and video artists a space where they can be free from everything else that is going on in their lives and that they have no control over. Space where they can express themselves among similarly minded people and help Iceland’s fantastic film scene grow and flourish.”

Learn more about the course – which is offered for students aged 16 – 25 and taught in English – on its Facebook page, here.

Nearly a Third of Young Women in Iceland Have Considered Suicide

Nearly a third of Icelandic girls and a fourth of Icelandic boys aged 16 to 20 have considered suicide, RÚVreports. This finding was among those reported in a long-term study conducted on behalf of the Directorate of Health: “Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Attempts Among Icelandic Young People: Findings of Upper Secondary Surveys, 2000-2016.”

The percentage of students who have considered suicide has not changed much since the surveys were initiated in 2000. That first year, 27% of girls aged 16-20 and 23% of boys of the same age reported having had suicidal thoughts. In 2016, the same percentage of boys reported affirmatively to this question (23%), as did a slightly higher percentage of girls, or 33%.

In terms of actual suicide attempts, the percentage remained fairly consistent for boys over the sixteen years of surveys—5% in 2000, increasing to 7% in 2016. Among young women, however, there’s been more volatility in this area. In 2000, 9% of women aged 16-20 reported that they’d attempted suicide, which increased to 11% in 2005. Five years later, in 2010, the percentage dropped to 7%, before going up again to 12% in 2016.

Around half of the young women and a third of the young men who participated in the surveys reported that someone close to them had told them about having attempted suicide. These percentages were consistent over the duration of the surveys.

The results of this study showed that upper secondary school students who have known someone who exhibits suicidal behavior are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and show suicidal behavior themselves. Students who had been told by a peer that the person had had suicidal thoughts were, in fact, twice as likely to seriously consider or attempt suicide themselves. Young people who had a close friend attempt suicide were two times as likely to seriously consider suicide and three times as likely to make an attempt on their own lives.

The most serious risk factors for attempting suicide were found to be as follows: having a close friend who had attempted suicide, depression, anger, being a victim of sexual violence, and cannabis use. Students who did not have much support from friends and/or family, or who had for some reason become cut off from their friends were also shown to be more likely to have suicidal thoughts or to attempt to kill themselves.

See the full results of the survey (in Icelandic) here.