Children of Asylum Seekers to be Schooled at Háaleitisskóli

The city of Reykjavík has decided that a special school department for the children of asylum seekers be created at Háaleitisskóli, RÚV reports.

A report by the city revealed that between 2017 and 2019, around 57 children of asylum seekers ages 6 to 16 years old received education in Iceland. Up until now, however, these children have been divided amongst 12 different schools. Conversely, the new department hopes to secure proper education for the children under one roof.

The report also suggests that Háaleitisskóli is a prime location for the project, as it is located in the middle of the city of Reykjavík and is close to public transportation.

As Iceland Review reported back in February, the new department was originally proposed at Vogaskóli, but those plans met with some opposition. Helga Helgadóttir, director of special education at Vogaskóli school was not happy with the committee’s proposal, saying it was counter to how Vogaskóli works, and as far as she was concerned, not in compliance with elementary school laws nor The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

However, the staff of Háaleitisskóli is reportedly thrilled with this new department, whose main objective is to secure social and educational well-being of the children of asylum seekers, even if they only stay in the country for a short period of time.

The department will include a department manager, three teachers and one assistant. The estimated cost of the new project is 14.4 million ISK.

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.