I went to a screening of the docu-film Neuland the other evening at the Goethe Institute. In 2013, Neuland opened in Basel, and, although I was still living in Zurich at the time, I didn't manage to see it. The film highlights the lives of a handful of younger refugees living in Basel-Stadt & Basel-Land who are attending a two-year training course as part of their language and cultural integration into Swiss life. Without this schooling, I dare say these young people would be lost. The film deals with the refugees' anxieties around finding employment, understanding Swiss German (the courses are conducted in Swiss German-inflected standard German), and, of course, understanding the Swiss mentality.
Some students fared better than others, in terms of integration, and that seemed to be down to a combination of personal drive, the ability to learn German fairly quickly, and by their not being too hampered by current circumstances. One of the school's instructors was also featured prominently in the film. He seemed such a caring sort, but he was also 'no bullshit'. At one point, he told a student (who'd been cutting class to work any menial job he could find) that in order for him to continue on with his schooling, he needed to sign a contract stating that he'd both be in class Monday through Friday & also not be late for said class. No exceptions. What he did at the weekend was, of course, up to him. The student owed a huge debt to his smugglers who were now seeking repayment, and, were they not to receive it within the specified time frame, were threatening to take away his family's land back in Afghanistan as punishment. The pressure this young man must have felt---I just can't imagine. The teacher told another student, a bright & lovely girl who had dreamt of becoming a teacher in her native Croatia, that her German was simply not good enough for the teacher training track. He encouraged her to find work as a carer instead. She did & she excelled in the position.
The end of the film also marked the end of school for this particular group of students. And, as is the Swiss way, graduation was celebrated with a lively lunch at a restaurant. There were many hugs, many tears & many expressions of both congratulations & gratitude.
The film is well worth a watch. Check it out, if you're inclined.
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