Norway high school accused of 'apartheid'

Nov 28, 2011, 08:35 IST | Agencies
A political row has broken out in Norway after a secondary school segregated students with ethnic backgrounds in classes away from white Norwegians.

Bjerke Upper Secondary School filled one of the three general studies sets solely with pupils with immigrant parents, after many white Norwegians from last year's intake changed schools.

"This is the first time I've heard about this, and it is totally unacceptable," Torge degaard, Oslo education commissioner, said, before pressuring the school to inform parents that the three classes would now be reorganised. The letter read, "Such a division of the students is not in accordance with the requirements of the Education Act. The school regrets this error."

But Robert Wright, former head of the city's schools board argued that the authorities had been wrong to block the move. He also said that other schools should start to segregate classes. "I think we have to try this to see how it's functioning. Bjerke School has come up with a radical solution to a real problem, but the politicians have just said 'no'."

The decision only came to the parents' notice earlier this month after Avtar Singh, a Punjabi Norwegian, confronted Gro Flaten, the school's headmistress, on why his son, had no ethnic Norwegian classmates. "She said that the school had experienced ethnic Norwegian students dropping out if they weren't grouped together in smaller classes," he said.

Students expressed their anger at the segregation. "This is apartheid. They do this because I'm from Africa and my father is from Africa," said Ilias Mohamed from Somalia, who was part of the immigrant-only class. But Helena Skagen, the head girl said, "They had the best intentions. They just wanted to keep the Norwegian students at school. But they now know that what they did was wrong because you can't split the students according to their culture."

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