The Iittala comprehensive school in Hämeenlinna is helping to integrate asylum-seeker families by encouraging the children to attend school as soon as possible after arriving.




Fourteen children from asylum-seeker families are set to begin their studies at the Iittala comprehensive school in Hämeenlinna on Monday. The children, aged between 8 and 14 years old, will start off in a preparatory class set up by the Iittala school in under four weeks.


«We waited around for a bit for any guidance from the authorities, and when none came we just went for it,» says headmaster Anne Laatikainen. «We didn’t sit on our hands, these children need to be in school. Thankfully we have active teachers who volunteer at a local reception centre and are interested in making this happen.»


The city of Hämeenlinna announced in late October that it wants to be the number one Finnish city in terms of its rate of integration.


«We are committed to this and want the integration process to begin as early as possible,» Laatikainen says. «The quicker these children learn Finnish and gain skills, the quicker they can join the rest of the school in classes like arts and PE.»


By contrast, in the city of Forssa officials are still wondering how to organise schooling for asylum-seeker children there. Preschoolers will be assigned to the local preschool, called Akseli. The first asylum-seekers arrived in Forssa in mid-September, while Iittala’s first migrants came a month ago on October 7.


Two years previously Second-Deputy Ombudsman Maija Sakslin pointed out that leaving a school age child out of the education system would, in fact, go against a child’s basic constitutional rights in Finland.