HomeTop StoriesClassroom support includes a rent-free room in a shared flat

Classroom support includes a rent-free room in a shared flat

The university student sits next to a 12-year-old student in class, looks at her notebook, and then explains the task.

“He helps me with a lot of subjects,” says Christelle, who has lived in Germany for about a year and attends the Neue Oberschule Gröpelingen, a high school in the northwestern city of Bremen.

Sargis Poghosyan regularly supports the girl, who is learning German as a second language, in German, English and mathematics.

“She works very hard,” says the 28-year-old. Meanwhile, special education teacher Sabine Jungehülsing, who is supervising the class that day with the help of a substitute teacher, tries to bring peace to the classroom.

She repeatedly reminds the boys and girls not to draw weapons or images of violence when designing their posters.

She thinks it is good that some students get extra help. Poghosyan also recognizes the need.

“If you want to help a lot, you’ve come to the right place,” said Poghosyan, a German studies student.

As a current participant in the Study Friends project in Bremen, he and four other university students spend five hours a week teaching at the school in Gröpelingen, a culturally diverse neighborhood in Bremen.

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In return, the young men and women receive a rent-free room in a shared flat nearby.

The district is home to many children with a non-German mother tongue, and the pass rate is low compared to other districts in Bremen.

The state government of Bremen considers the project effective on many levels: it helps children from less privileged backgrounds and improves their educational prospects.

The project offers students a room in a shared flat, provides insight into the school environment and introduces them to a new neighborhood.

The initiative has been praised by Bremen education senator Sascha Aulepp, who recently said that the number of participants will be increased this year.

In the future, 17 students will help at various schools in the district. A number of housing companies and child welfare organizations are involved in the project.

In addition to helping with lessons, the Study Friends initiative also offers creative breaks for students.

This morning, 24-year-old student Júlia Balla put watercolors on the table. She cheerfully shows a group of children how to draw a heart, flowers or animals on paper using fingerprints.

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She observes the children attentively and patiently answers their questions. “She likes to do volunteer work,” says 11-year-old Elina about the student and says she also helped her with math.

Balla is also grateful for the project, which covers her rent for the shared room, helping her to be financially independent.

She gives art workshops for children in various districts of Bremen, in addition to her work as a tutor at the school.

Poghosyan also has another job: he works as a branch manager in a tea shop.

Initially, working at the school was a challenge for Balla, she explains. It took a while for trust to develop between her and the children.

“Now [it] is much more fun,” she reports. “I’m always there on Mondays and the children know that too. They’re already waiting for me.”

She also enjoys living in Gröpelingen. “But I also realize that you have to be very open,” she adds, referring to the different nationalities in the neighborhood.

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“When I come home in the evening, there are usually only men on the street. I had to get used to that in the beginning,” she says.

She thinks it’s good that she often encounters schoolchildren on the street in the neighborhood. It shows the children that young people live alone and take care of themselves, she says.

Both Poghosyan and Balla are excited to increase the number of participants in the Study Friends project.

It would be good if more students lived in Gröpelingen, says Poghosyan. “I am sure that all schools in Gröpelingen need help.”

Balla looks forward to the growing community. “We are all very curious about the new people,” she says.

About possible activities for the children during the school holidays, Balla says: “The more Study Friends there are, the bigger projects we can do,” she explains.

Sargis Poghosyan (left), participant in the Bremen 'Study Friends' project, helps students from the Neue Oberschule Gröpelingen in the classroom.  Sina Schuldt/dpa

Sargis Poghosyan (left), participant in the Bremen ‘Study Friends’ project, helps students from the Neue Oberschule Gröpelingen in the classroom. Sina Schuldt/dpa

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