Feature on Somali Woman Teaching Swedish language

A Somali woman stands to enlighten a young newly arrived migrant  at municipal school in Orebro

It’s half past twelve, sunny Monday day at the Nicolai School in Orebro city. Students are enjoying their lunch pretty quiet. It’s a busy time for schoolteachers as examination come nearby as usual teachers are helping students within their classrooms. Other students are getting a brief break and they are taking a whiff of air around the garden of the school. Others look a little bit energized and continue to work inside the classes while some others are smoking beyond the garden close to the street. Students should stay in their classes nearly 4-hours per day as pertinent to their timetable.

An interview with Somali woman who teaches Swedish municipal school in Orebro(Video Reportage)

The atmosphere is pretty good: loud reading and repetition after the teacher can be heard from a distance. Students are working within groups as divided by their teachers. They are working on their exercises. The school is full of students from different backgrounds, some of them are new to Sweden and its culture and surely have little experience with Swedish language, education, and the system. Some others are not new as they have been studying the Komvux (Adult Municipal Education School) here in Orebro for a while. Their faces reflect hope and aspiration for better future, but they also know that their journey to integrate with Swedish society and the system is quite away from glamor.

Halima Hussein is a Somali teacher and she teaches the Swedish language to the newly arrived migrants in Sweden and works more than eight hours per day in the Nicolai school at Orebro. She has been teaching more 12-years. Her students come from different parts of the world. Most of them came from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and morocco as well as Iraq.

Mrs. Halima teaches 40-hours per week. She gives lectures on the language as well as vital and specific information for the newly arrived students regarding their life in Sweden. She teaches two groups at morning and afternoon; both of these groups are elementary to the language and they learn very basic Swedish languages lessons. She uses audio-visual teaching method where students can hear and see their lessons. “We have been teaching this way for long period of time, but to succeed depend on their personal efforts and plan to learn more,” said Halima.

In a coffee break time as she puts aside her books and markers on the table and took a chair to sit down. Now it’s a time for coffee to refresh the mind and get some energy to pursue tutoring. As she pours a cup of coffee: drops of sweat came off her forehead. She looks up and start to give a good smile for her day. “I like to work as a teacher firstly to be independent and support others who are migrants like me to integrate,” Halima said while she is drinking her black coffee.

Halima works as a full-time teacher for a while. Her affluent practical experience enriched with tired less commitment for her duties as a teacher and responsibilities as a mother. Halima teaches students drawn from multilingual and multi-ethnic migrant groups here in Orebro. Mrs. Halima believes that the first step of integration is to learn the local Swedish Language and then to study further about the culture and the norms. “Learning the language is key and migrants should learn to communicate” Halima stated. Here style of communication with students goes beyond verbal communication when she is teaching and sometimes she uses the non-verbal method to illustrate what she wants to explain because some of them have really difficult to understand the Swedish language, she tries to use English to explain the subject; but if it’s not working again. She employs gestures and her hands to elaborate more. Halima smiles and very close to her students. “I have been teaching this school for more than 10 years, we are not only teachers, we are guards, friends, and sometimes behave as a parent to the young migrants, we motivate them to do more,” said Halima setting on her desk.

Halima had been settled here in Sweden since early 1990s; more than 20-years. As a result of instability and civil war she left her country back and started a new life here in Sweden with her children. She fought to pursue her dreams here in Sweden with great determination to study more. “The most difficult thing that I can remember during my early days in Sweden was how to communicate with the Swedish language. So, in order to learn I was always in a search to get someone who can speak the language very well” Halima said.

More than one thousand students from different countries study SFI and the Komvux her in Orebro city to meet with basic Swedish education and the social orientation; in order to manage their new life smoothly in Orebro and in Sweden in general. The Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) is an elementary course of Swedish language and the goal is to introduce migrants into the Swedish language. It has nothing to do with proficiency in the language but it’s a milestone course where migrants can start their journey to study the language and the basic education in more effective manner. The municipal basic education officials confirmed the significance of the language as an entry point to a more integration processes for the migrants. So, adults who hadn’t attended basic education or not completed their primary and secondary education in the home country; Komvux provides a chance to restart again in order to integrate with society and job market in a better way. “The language is a key to the society, the SFI school informs about the codes, behaviors, and everyday life in Sweden,” said Brigitta Lundh, SFI teacher and coordinator of the Komvux in Orebro. However, the program has setbacks when it comes to learning the language effectively.

There are also a considerable number of people who are not successful in learning the language for different reasons such as – lack of drive of many students to learn the language quickly and consequently lost their desire and motivation to pursue. Others don’t have any formal education background, but they have the desire to learn so, they need longer time to concentrate. There are some certain limitations on the program as well. The language training program is like a crash program in terms of time, the content of the program its self is not well designed for migrants who had no experience at all to the Swedish language which makes thing more difficult. There are also interventions from politicians and the municipality administration on how to teach the language and deadline without considering the situation in the classrooms. (are students learning well the language or not, and why?).

Somali teacher teaching in municipal school at Orebro City
Somali teacher teaching in municipal school at Orebro City

Learning the Swedish language is not an easy job as it sounds. The language is really complicated in its structure and surely it takes a great deal of commitment and determination to overcome the first stage of integration. SFI teachers and the administration knows that very well. “my wish is that students could meet more Swedish input, some lessons at the school is not enough “said Birgitta Lundh.

Halima and her colleagues in Nicolia school in Orebro work hard to change the situation and innovate new technique of teaching the language based on the capacity of students. Students usually get extra help from their teachers   in the school library as well as in the main public library. There is also a group teaching sessions where Halima and her workmates teach students how to collaborate within the group. There is also student assessment report concerning to the level of the progression of the student in learning the language; whereby Halima decides when certain students are prepared to be examined. According to that assessment report, teachers decide who will be part of the national examination. As long as teachers realize that students are prepared for the national exam. Teachers notify students to attend examination as per to the timetable.

To be fully integrated with Swedish system, migrants need to study the local language first and foremost as per to the integration policy of Sweden and then will have access to the public services such as education, jobs, and other development programs in order to obtain sustainable development for all. However, the road to integrating within Swedish society positively requires more personal struggle and determination and structural reforms to minimize the gap between migrants and swedes.

BY:Omar Ahmed






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