Romania runs out of language courses for refugees

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by Sergei Filatov

In a small classroom, where walls are decorated with children drawings and shelves are full of colorful books, one doesn’t often see here laughing kids. While a bell rings, the room gets full of immigrants and refugees, who decided to stay in the poorest EU country in order to find a new future.

Those, who want a good job, usually face two problems. They are Romanian poor economy and prohibition to recognize any diploma without citizenship. In order to overcome these difficulties, refugees must learn Romanian, which is required by employers and migration authorities.

Bucharest has several language courses that are suggested by the government and NGOs. Considering that a refugee receives a government support for the whole year in the sum of $127 per month, he or she has to learn a totally new language with a growing time pressure. The first year of any refugee is a constant struggle with slow bureaucracy that operates faster only by means of bribery.

However, not everyone has an opportunity to visit courses and better integrate into Romanian society. The most common option for refugees is to sign up for the courses suggested by the government that are provided in regular Romanian schools. But these courses are not adjusted for refugees, who have recently arrived in Romania and would like to immediately learn basics in order to find a job.

The language courses in state schools are widely criticized by NGOs. They are based on academic system and not flexible; forcing migrants start studies in September. Those who arrived to Romania in October have to wait almost the whole year or go to NGOs, hoping that it’s not too late to sign up for limited number of seats.DSC01963

The International Organization for Migration is one of the few places in Bucharest, where newcomers are welcomed to learn Romanian and get legal help. The building has one little class with 13 densely located student chairs. Two days a week, whole immigrant families come here to study, find friends and get know their new home better.

A teacher of the IOM, Andreea Floori notes that her courses are not regular ones. She has a specialization to teach adults, but her teacher experience with refugees is not what she studied in university. «At the beginning, the methodology was like in school. Day one lesson one, day two lesson two. In our experience this is impossible to do, we need flexibility and everyone should work in pair. We need to know how they feel, to really help. It’s not like university, I am a teacher, I have a speech and you can take notes and go home. It’s not like this, here I should play, speak with everyone in part at any time. The things from personal life can affect the group. If you are in bad mood I will put music, give lyrics of a song and assist in learning».

With few teachers in the staff, this office gives language education to 70 people per week. More and more people come to the IOM, but not all of them register due to the limit of seats. Unfortunately, less and less organizations provide this kind of service in Bucharest, the most suitable city for immigrants due to availability of jobs.

JRS or Jesuit Refugee Service used to provide language courses for refugees and immigrants for six years, but the organization had to call them off because of financial issues. Different NGOs take money from the same sources and they should wisely allocate them. If the flow of finances shrinks, organizations cancel their secondary services and focus more on main profile. In the case of JRS is advocacy.

NGOs and the government already feel influx of refugees and immigrants, who would like to stay. As Andreea says, sometimes 20 people come to the IOM and ask to get registered. And although language courses are not numerous, they push forward integration of newcomers. “I think we have good results and it’s very nice that in 4 or 5 years you meet your student and he/she working and has a family here”.

Sergei is journalism student in the Netherlands.

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