Norway: More harassment in immigrant schools

Norway: More harassment in immigrant schools

There's more harassment in ethnically and culturally mixed groups of students, according to a the Elevundersøkelsen 2009 study. In schools where there are more than 10 immigrant students and a total of more than 15%, 10.4% of the students say they are harassed 2-3 times a month or more - much more than the national average of 8.5%.

In schools with less than 10 immigrant students, 'just' 6.9% of the students say they are harassed. Such schools are well under the national average.

The project head for the study, Inger-Johanne Danielsen of Oxford Research AS, says that research is limited as to the cause, but she think that one explanation might be that standing out in language or appearance can get other students to comment.

Politician Abid Q. Raja (Liberal Party) isn't surprised at all by the results.

"Many children of minority background are harassed and beaten at home. They are exposed to so called 'upbringing by violence'. Many then show their resistance by taking it out on other students," thinks Raja.

He says that many immigrant parents have a background which is entirely different from the Norwegian, because they come from non-Western third-world countries.

"It's the system which fails when it doesn't succeed in correcting the parent's behavior through training, information and education," says Raja.

Parliament member Hadia Tajik (Labor) Thinks harassment can be a way of exercising social control among students of immigrant background.

"Girls in particular have told me that they meet expectations to dress in a certain way. If not, they can be harassed by both male and female students because they are becoming too Norwegian," says Tajik. But boys are also exposed to social control, she says.

Tajik says she will contact education minister Kristin Halvorsen and ask to research further on why schools with a high percentage of immigrants have a poor showing in the harassment statistics.

Edvard Befring, professor of special education at the University of Oslo, thinks the trend is due to discrimination of minorities - in both directions.

"A minority will always be exposed to harassment. We have problems with conducting ourselves properly towards those who are different," he thinks.

That's due to group dynamics.

"It's easier to accept a single person who looks different as long as those involved work hard to behave like a majority. When it becomes an issue of larger groups, it's easier to forget the individual, and to focus on that the other group is different. We have less developed empathy towards groups than towards individuals."

A group can also be easily perceived as provocative, and a lot of harassment is a consequence of just such a provocation, real or not.

There's therefore a a lot of social learning directed at both the harassment victim and the harasser, says Befring.

Source: Dagsavisen (Norwegian)

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