This little Swedish schoolboy’s class is so culturally enriched that there isn’t a single classmate with whom he can converse in his native language.
Fortunately for him, his mother and his grandmother are strong-minded people. They’re willing to buck the system and keep him out of school, rather than force him to continue in a situation which demoralizes and terrifies him.
Many thanks to our Swedish correspondent Henrik W. for translating this article from Kristianstadsbladet:
No classmate to speak Swedish with Hampus
School has begun. But not for Hampus, aged 7. He would have been the sole Swedish kid in his class at the Gustaf Hellström School. His family finds this unacceptable and keeps him home.
Hampus Kristoffersson waves to the neighbour boy who has just returned from the kindergarten. He’s been home all day long, despite school having started last Tuesday.
“School is supposed to be a happy time. I won’t let him go there if he’s going with tears in his eyes and a sinking feeling in his stomach,” says Agnetha Nilsson.
Last fall, Hampus and his mother Anna Nilsson moved from Knislinge to Österäng. He began at a new school. To begin with, he had a few Swedish classmates, but they eventually moved away, one by one. Hampus was left alone. And did not like it.
During breaks, the other children spoke their native tongues. Hampus could not join the games and felt excluded.
“I don’t want to be there, because no one plays with me. I walk around in circles and get panicked,” he says.
Hampus’ mother Anna Nilsson says she pointed out the problems to his teachers several times during the spring.
“Nothing happened. The just said ‘he’s so clever and helps explaining things to his classmates’, but who’s supposed to encourage him to progress and learn more?” says Agnetha Nilsson.
She doesn’t put the blame on either the teachers or the children.
“The system is broken. That classes with just one Swedish pupil are allowed.”
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Four semesters have passed. Agnetha Nilsson has desperately sought to change Hampus’ school allocation. She’s checked with the Park School, the Central School, the Kulltorp School and the Hammar School. Everywhere, the message is the same. There are no available places.
The principal of the Gustaf Hellström School, Joakim Sahlin, was informed about Hampus’ situation before the start of the fall semester.
“The grandmother wants me to help her find a place at another school. But Hampus lives in the uptake district of the Gustaf Hellstöm School. My responsibility is to offer him a place at our school,” says Joakim Sahlin.
The Gustaf Hellström school is one of the most segregated in the county. All in all, about 15 out of 140 pupils are Swedes, the rest having been born either abroad or to parents that are immigrants from another country. A situation far from ideal, according to Joakim Sahlin.
“There aren’t enough Swedish children to act as ‘natural pullers’ of the Swedish language. Instead, everyone ends up having weak language skills,” he says.
He is aware of the fact that break-time conversations among pupils are mostly held in foreign languages.
“Those who have recently arrived find their identity in their language group,” says Joakim.
Is it not OK to use Swedish during breaks?
“I’m not a fan of bans, but I think we should be able to say, ‘Let’s all think of speaking Swedish, so all can participate, if we don’t speak Swedish some will be excluded’.”
The days are passing, and no solution is in sight for Hampus. His mother and grandmother are aware that sending kids to school is not optional in Sweden. But they are too frustrated to care at this point.
“I don’t have the heart to leave him at the school when he feels so bad,” says Agnetha Nilsson.
For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.