The Integration Puzzle What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life

The New Germany: Within only 12 months, over 1 million people moved to Germany. How will they integrate?

The New Germany: Within only 12 months, over 1 million people moved to Germany. How will they integrate?


Part 13: 'We Will Only Manage This If We Have the Infrastructure'

Cordula Heckmann, 57, is the director of the Rütli Campus in Berlin's Neukölln district, a gritty urban neighborhood with a large immigrant population.

How did you succeed in turning the Rütli High School around, Ms. Heckmann?

Cordula Heckmann, a woman who should have something to say about how to integrate children, is sitting at the end of the school corridor behind a green metal door. Report cards are stacked on a desk and some 550 students between grades seven and 13 are waiting for their grades. Ninety-two percent are first or second-generation immigrants, with most living in families receiving welfare assistance. Their parents originate from countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. They include Roma, Kurds, Yezidis, Shiites and Sunnis. "We are a microcosm of all the world's problems," says Cordula Heckmann, director of the school.

A security guard dressed entirely in black stands at the entry gate to the school, a reminder of the time a decade ago when it made international headlines for violence perpetrated by unruly students against teachers and became a symbol of failed integration in the German capital Berlin. In the years since, the school has made headlines for a successful turn-around that has made it a model for the future. So how did the school succeed, Ms. Heckmann?

"We have the same students, but students now have different prospects," she says. Rütli, which Heckmann has led since 2009, has been transformed into a comprehensive school in which children are now completing their college-prep high school education and heading off to university -- a development many would never have expected. The school has two daycare centers and also offers Turkish and Arabic courses so that students learn not only German, but also get proper command of their mother tongues in order to prevent them from speaking broken versions of two languages, as Heckmann puts it. The school also provides a health service where parents can take their children for medical checkups. Soon, the city will also open up a local branch of the youth welfare office inside the school.

Addressing the issue of all the refugee children who are now expected to be taught in German schools, she says, "We will only manage this if we have the necessary infrastructure." By that, she means money, facilities and training for potential teacher and staff positions. "Everyone needs to be working together: social education workers, school psychologists, social workers and police," she says.

Discuss this issue with other readers!
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spiegelerin 02/21/2016
1. HOW do you integrate them?
I just saw a photo of Africans squatting on a boat waiting to come over and another load of them waiting in Libya. (Kaddafi said, watch what happens when they just hop over to Europe.) They are going to take an integration course and live well in hyper independent Germany? I don't think so. They are adults with different norms. When it comes to women, when it comes to how to cure AIDS (sleeping with virgins) when it comes to noise in the streets...the cultures will not harmoniously merge and European culture will have to deal with becoming less woman friendly, louder and so on...I don't see this happening at all well, but apparently "mixed" societies like in France and Belgium work 'well enough." But more are coming and I don't see harmony, at least not for people with European norms. Will this one get published? It's MY opinion, not that of SPON.
artvent 02/21/2016
2. Muslim Refugees
I'm sorry for these people, but you must realize they will live in their own ghettos and because of their religion will never assimilate - they will not contribute to your society because they are mostly uneducated and they will not respect their host nation. Just look at France if you want to see the problem. Most of all I feel sorry for the German people and what will happen to Germany in the years to come after this invasion. You will lose your identity.
bartelbe 02/21/2016
3. it won't work
You want to know what integration looks like? Integration is mixed families, it is muslim girls dating, sleeping with, marrying and having families with German men. That isn't going to happen, because if a muslim girl amoung these "refugees" decided to date a German man she would be dishonouring her family and would be punish. Let that sink in, your new arrivals reguard you with such contempt that if one of their female relatives dated one of your young men, it would be seen as a form of dishonour. If it was the other way round you would condemn that attitude as racist, but no doubt it will be swept under the carpet just like the events in Cologne. Sex and relationships reveals the truth about how people feel. Your new arrivals are not interested in integration, and they do not respect your culture. That is the truth and no amount of PC censorship will change that.
nsmith 02/22/2016
4. Integration Doesn't Happen Overnight...
Germany is going to find out that Integration is not as easy as "Wir Schaffen Das!" The United States of America was built on that same principle over 300 years ago, and we're still having problems with it.
spiegelerin 02/24/2016
5. The next task is to integrate them...
Yes, one integration course and they will learn European values of not grabbing women, of not thinking that women alone have no honor...One integration course and they won't be the desperate people who don't respect barriers, who don't jump trains. No, if You don't give them money and take care of their needs, they are going to get angry. Just take care of them, at any cost.
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