Norwegian school's segregation sparks racism row
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 in Oslo 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.
The controversy over the decision has highlighted the unease in Norway over how to integrate the 420,000 "non-Nordic" citizens who immigrated between 1990 and 2009, and who make up 28 per cent of Oslo's population.
"This is the first time I've heard about this, and it is totally unacceptable," Torge Odegaard, Oslo's education comm- issioner, said yesterday, before pressuring the school to inform parents that the three classes would now be reorganised.
The letter to parents read: "Such a division is not in accordance with the requirements of the Education Act. The school regrets this error."
But Robert Wright, a Christian Democrat politician and former head of the city's schools' board, argued that the authorities had been wrong to block the move. He also said that other Oslo schools should start to segregate classes to prevent "white flight" developing.
"I think we have to try this," he told reporters.
"Bjerke School has come up with a radical solution to a real problem, but the politicians have just said 'no'."
He said that the school's decision reflected problems stemming from the high rate of immigration Oslo has seen in recent decades.
The decision only came to the parents' notice earlier this month after Avtar Singh, a Punjabi Norwegian, confronted the school's headmistress on why his son had no ethnic Norwegian classmates.
"She said straight out that the school had experienced ethnic Norwegian students dropping out if they weren't grouped together in smaller classes," he told 'Dagsavisen' newspaper.
Students at the school have expressed their anger. "This is apartheid. They do this because I'm from Africa and my father is from Africa," said Ilias Mohamed (17), from Somalia.
Mr Wright added that he believed the shadow of Anders Breivik, the anti-Islamic extremist who massacred 77 people in Oslo in July, had made discussions of immigration difficult.
"I think it's a very emotional discussion because of what happened in July," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)