Welcome class, December, 7th, 2015

A friend of mine used to tell me “Life is unfair, better get used to it!”. I had plenty of opportunities in life to notice he had been right about that. Seeing the refugees “crisis” unfolding in Europe, I get acutely aware of it, a little bit more every day. Because despite constant efforts made by hundreds of volunteers in all countries, nothing seems to get better. Each day, shelters get destroyed by thugs. Each day, volunteers are getting more and more exhausted, and we are all fearing that winter which hasn’t dawned upon us just yet. Yet, today what saddens me the most isn’t the urgency of acting more in the welcoming of refugees. Today, it’s witnessing yet another unfair situation that really made me think that indeed, situations could be really unfair.

As I come to school this morning, two colleagues of mine inform me that the Syrian girl that was being bullied (I talked about it here) will be transferred into another school soon. Because of the bullies. Because she can’t take it anymore. Last week she was bothered again by the others, because she got her period and unfortunately had blood on her trousers. Sure enough, all the bullies joined up to show everyone that it had happened and she was left humiliated in front of the whole class. This didn’t happen in my classroom, I just know that the teacher in charge immediately sent her home. As if she had done something wrong. Because it was the easiest way to relieve her pain and humiliation.

This is absolutely not fair, but it seems we’re going for a “strongest is the best” solution. What’s worse is that the main bully is the girl being beaten up by her own father (I also talked about that here). And this girl has not attended school regularly for the past couple of weeks. Last time I saw her, she couldn’t even read the text I had given her because another beating up session from her father broke her glasses. So either way this doesn’t seem to end well. I’m left with the bully, whom I’ll still try to help out because she’s a victim as well.

As I sit in the empty classroom before my course, the Syrian girl comes up to me and says with the few words she managed to learn that “school, here, not good. me, elsewhere”. I don’t have enough simple words to tell her how sorry I am, how much I understand and how deeply I feel her pain. But above all, I’m angry at my colleagues who decided among themselves that to solve the issue, we basically had to get rid of weakest element. Shouldn’t she have been protected, precisely as the most vulnerable? Now it means that the bullies win, and I wonder whether that will ever change?

Throughout the course, I notice it’s a good day for the Syrian girl, since her main bully isn’t here (being beaten up, that is, so I can’t really rejoice about her absence). The kids interact with each other, they all work on different exercises by groups of three or four, depending on their advancement. Only one of them is being cast aside, the latest addition to our class. He’s a bit slower than the others, so I can already see the strongest setting in motion the dynamic: when the Syrian girl will have left, I know he will become their next target. Maybe I live in some sordid real life Hunger Games. For the time being, I make the girl read aloud, she laughs, I’m happy to hear her laugh. I know she doesn’t hold me responsible for the situation but I’m angry that I can’t do more – because I can only intervene in my class, and report things. Report is another way to acknowledge that you didn’t manage to intervene on time. And it’s placing the matter in hands of people higher up who will need time to do anything concrete about it. So I do feel useless in that situation.

As I leave school, wondering whether I’ll see the Syrian girl again, I take a seat on the train. All the kids left the class together, except her and the newest kid. The latter also takes the train home. He comes into the carriage, and as he sees me, a broad smile forms on his face. He comes and sits in front of me. I would have liked to stay alone because I’m sad, but he doesn’t have any friends, and he looks very happy to be here. So we talk a bit, I ask him how he finds the school, what he likes and doesn’t like there, and so on. Three stations later, he stands up and shakes my hand, seemingly happy to have chatted with me. He gets off and I think about something someone said to me one day. How I can’t save everyone. But what if one doesn’t even try? Those who think it impossible should leave alone people who still try.

***
I now use a new template for the blog, which doesn’t allow me to show the “Donate Now” button for “Berlin Train of Hope” on the front page, so I will try and think about posting it at the bottom of each post. 

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