Germany hires 8,500 teachers for child refugees

Two refugee children from Iraq posing in front of a Christmas tree in Germany on Dec 22.
Two refugee children from Iraq posing in front of a Christmas tree in Germany on Dec 22.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN • Germany has recruited 8,500 people to teach child refugees German, as the country expects the number of new arrivals to soar past the million mark this year, according to local media.

With some 196,000 children fleeing war and poverty entering the German school system this year, 8,264 "special classes" have been created to help the new arrivals catch up with their peers, Die Welt reported on Sunday, citing a survey carried out in 16 German federal states.

According to Germany's education authority, 325,000 school-age children reached the European Union country this year, amid Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II.

Germany expects over a million asylum seekers this year, which is five times more than last year and has put a strain on its ability to provide services to all the newcomers.

"Schools and education administrations have never been confronted with such a challenge," Ms Brunhild Kurth, who heads the education authority, told Die Welt.

"We must accept that this exceptional situation will become the norm for a long time to come."

Mr Heinz-Peter Meidinger, head of the DPhV teachers' union, said Germany will in fact need up to 20,000 additional teachers in order to cater for the new numbers.

"By next summer, at the latest, we will feel that gap," he said.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel won over some of her harshest critics with her decision in September to open the doors to the record wave of refugees who were heading in, many on foot, from Budapest.

But many Germans now have doubts, fearing that Dr Merkel is plunging the country into chaos, as polls point to growing fears about the influx of mostly Muslims.

"Germany is definitely split," said Professor Oskar Niedermayer of Berlin's Free University. "In general, Merkel and her work are still very highly regarded, but on the refugee crisis, a majority think she is pursuing the wrong policy."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Germany hires 8,500 teachers for child refugees'. Print Edition | Subscribe