Oslo: Kids missing from schools

There are 144 elementary schools in Oslo with 50,000 students, out of which 18,000 are of minority background.

More than 100 students have failed to show up for school this fall, a month after the school year started. Officials fear the truant children, most of them from immigrant families, have been sent back to their parents' homeland.

Some of the truant children may be attending Koran or military schools in Pakistan or other countries, but school officials are worried.

"Many of the children lose their local network," Per Korsvik, principal of Sinsen School, told newspaper Dagsavisen this week. He's missing six students at his school who never showed up for classes.

Many school officials also fear that the children are being used as labourers in their parents' homelands. They fear for the children's futures.

The number of children kept out of school may be even higher, because some schools may have failed to report the students' absence. The prinicipals may expect the students to turn up, and they also risk losing as much as NOK 40,000 in funding per missing student.

Education officials toughened up truancy regulations four years ago, and any absence over 14 days is to be reported to state labour and welfare officials and to the tax office. Norway's child protective services (Barnevernet) and the police are also supposed to be notified.

Parents are rarely punished for failing to send their children to school, however. Dagsavisen reported that 127 sets of parents had been reported to police on truancy charges, but fully 106 cases were dropped and only one set of parents was ultimately convicted.

Source: Aftenposten (English), Dagbladet (Norwegian)

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