Two hundred students on the waiting list for OKAN class in Antwerp: “10 students are added every week” (Antwerp)

Two hundred students on the waiting list for OKAN class in Antwerp: “10 students are added every week” (Antwerp)
Two hundred students on the waiting list for OKAN class in Antwerp: “10 students are added every week” (Antwerp)
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All minors who arrive in our country have the right to education just like everyone else. In primary school they go to the regular class, but in secondary school there are separate OKAN classes where they receive intensive Dutch lessons for a year. Then they go to the regular class.

And it is in secondary school that things go wrong. Two hundred foreign-speaking students between the ages of 12 and 18 are on the waiting list in the city of Antwerp.

The Ukraine crisis increased the pressure sharply a few years ago. As a result, almost eight hundred additional places have been quickly created. Insufficient, as it turns out.

READ ALSO. Either no classrooms or no teachers: increasing shortage of classes for foreign-speaking children

In addition, there are currently about eighty students in the so-called waiting offer, where they go to the OKAN class half-time and are cared for half-time by welfare organizations that guide them. There is not yet a full place at school for them either.

“The right to education is being seriously violated here,” says Karin Heremans, director of GO! Atheneum Antwerp. “We have been sounding the alarm bells all school year. Every week the waiting list grows with another ten children at Atlas (city service for Civic Integration and Integration in Antwerp, ed.) are registered. A plan to address these shortages is urgently needed. We are trying to set up a cross-network structure to accommodate the influx, but we need support from the city. The schools are working themselves to death.”

arin Heremans, director of GO! Atheneum Antwerp — © Nattida-Jayne Kanyachalao

“No more stretch”

Charlotte Van Praet, OKAN coordinator at the GO!Atheneum in Hoboken, also says this. “We have been sounding the alarm since 2021,” she says. “The coordinators of all OKAN schools work together very well, but this is beyond our capabilities. There really is no stretch left. We cannot keep adding places. And then there is the teacher shortage. There has been consultation, including with the city, but we need more support.”

READ ALSO. Antwerp OKAN teachers are sounding the alarm: “We estimate that the waiting list will grow to 400”

According to Van Praet, the capacity shortage at OKAN also has major consequences for the rest of education in Antwerp. “If we cannot adequately prepare these students, it will require even more efforts from teachers in regular education to get them on board. It takes years for Dutch to reach ‘native language’ level, which is why what we do is so important. That awareness that I miss in policy.”

“Too late”

Foreign-speaking students do not necessarily start their school year on September 1, but join throughout the year. Those who have completed their program will move on to regular education on September 1. “We see that the waiting list has been eliminated for a while at the start of the school year, but it is growing quickly again by December. Every year,” says Van Praet, “It is too late for those who are now on the waiting list. They will certainly be at home until the end of the school year.

At Atlas, the city service for Civic Integration and Integration in Antwerp, a response is referred to Antwerp Alderman for Education, Jinnih Beels (Vooruit). She does not wish to respond.

Charlotte van Praet, OKAN coordinator in the GO! Athenaeum Hoboken.

Charlotte van Praet, OKAN coordinator in the GO! Athenaeum Hoboken. — © rr

Tags: students waiting list OKAN class Antwerp students added week Antwerp

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