A senior Oslo education official has harshly criticised the Bjerke Upper Secondary School’s practise of separating classes by ethnicity.
It is reported Bjerke Upper Secondary School (videregående) personnel have admitted they consciously adopted the practise to stop the exodus of whiter Norwegian pupils.
Calling the move “completely unacceptable”, Oslo City Council’s Torger Ødegaard says to NRK, “this is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing and have told the rector to reverse it.”
Head of Section Hanna Norum Eliassen tells Dagsavisen, “Ethnic Norwegian pupils quit and applied to other schools last year and the year before. Some expressed loneliness at being “white” Norwegians, resulting in classes consisting of even more pupils from a minority background. Consequently, we lost some of the diversity we, students, and ethnic minority parents wanted.”
“It was a difficult, but responsible decision to keep the ethnic Norwegian students more united,” she continues, defending the choice by saying, “after much discussion and consideration, we ultimately took the difficult decision to place 14 ethnic Norwegians in the first two classes, but none in the third. It has led to fewer Norwegian students dropping out.”
Ms Norum Eliassen underlines, however, she finds it “sad if this leads to ‘brown’ and ‘white’ schools. Nobody benefits from this.”
“This is pure apartheid. It’s segregation, not integration in the Norwegian public school system,” says a shocked Professor of Law, Henning Jakhelln, who specialises in human rights, education, and school legislation.
Arguing the practise breaches both the Anti-Discrimination Act and the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, amongst others, he says, “[Under the Education Act], all students are to receive education on equal terms [...] It’s not an opportunity to base which students should attend which school class based on ethnicity.”
Several ethnic minority pupils and parents interviewed by Dagsavisen say they are appalled at the school’s decision.
At a recent parent-teacher meeting, the one of the pupils’ fathers asked, “Why my son was in a class composed purely of ethnic minorities. The answer I got was quite shocking. “
“She said straight out that the school has found that ethnic Norwegian students drop out if they do not gather in large groups divided into fewer classes. She had no answer when I asked her what would happen if my son would leave because he wanted to be part of the community in a mixed class. Indirectly, this means that my son does not have equal value for the school as the ethnic Norwegian students,” he alleges.
When told the school would be continuing the practise the following year, the father stated he replied, “I tried to say this is the opposite to the type of integration talked about by [Prime Minister Jens] Stoltenberg, but received the same answer, that this was necessary to keep the “white” pupils at the school. She repeated this several times.”
A pupil with Pakistani origins, but who was born in Norway and attended Linderud School before, says, “Nobody really thought about that a person came from a particular country. Nevertheless, that’s how it will be here [at Bjerke] when “foreigners only” are in one class, with ethnic Norwegians in another."
“This just creates a just creates a bigger distinction between foreigners and Norwegians,” claims another pupil in the same class, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Bjerke’s rector, Gro Flaten, says the school will be changing its policy in the relevant classes grouped by ethnicity.
“We see that this division is wrong. Ethnic Norwegian and non-ethnic Norwegian students will now be mixed,” she tells NTB.
NRK reports approximately 50 students staged a demonstration at the school earlier today protesting against the practise.
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