Going to school
In Finland, compulsory schooling continues until the age of 18. This means that going to school is a big and important part of a child’s and young person’s life. At school, children and young people learn knowledge and skills for the future and make friends. There are many safe adults in schools, such as teachers, the principal, counsellors, curators, psychologists and a school nurse.
It is quite normal to go and talk occasionally with a curator or a school nurse and discuss things that weigh on your mind and worry you. The school staff is bound by a duty of confidentiality regarding the young person’s personal matters.
A parent’s job is to give support and encouragement in going to school and forming a young person’s identity. You can contact the school if you are concerned about something. The school also hopes to cooperate with the home.
Children and young people need safe adults with whom they can talk openly about the questions that come to mind and bring up their concerns. Safe adults give the young person room to talk and ask questions without judgement or punishment. Young people come across many things, even if they don’t do them themselves. They can be scary for a young person or a parent (e.g. sex, drugs, dating, sexuality, racism, violence). A child or young person is not to blame for hearing, seeing or experiencing these things. Listen to and give support to your child. Go through things a second time and discuss them, and search for information and seek support for your own concerns. If your child tells you about some shocking things, this is a good thing and shows that the child trusts you.
During school days, young Muslims may encounter things that are not in line with their own values. Different customs and habits can make them feel out of place or cause them to be embarrassed. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re wrong – everyone can be themselves, be happy with their own values and customs as well as respect others.
For example, participating in various festivities or staying out of them. Muslim families are different and may disagree about attending festivities that are not part of their religion. Festivities during the school year can include, for example, Christmas and related customs during December, Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Every family has its own ways of celebrating things, and everyone has the right to act the way they feel is right. The school is obliged to organise alternative activities for those who do not participate in the general festivities.
If there is prayer time during school hours, the student has the right to pray. For a young person, it may feel challenging or out of place to go to pray in the middle of the school day. The school hopes for good interaction with students and parents. Openness and boldly asking for a free classroom for prayer time, for example, is perfectly fine. You can agree on this with the teacher. Prayer is not an excuse to skip class. Instead, you should respectfully agree on a workable arrangement and schedule.
Like in Finnish society more generally, girls and boys are equal at school and study the same subjects. Often, when talking about the changes related to puberty, the genders are separated into their own groups sensitively. Muslim families may have different interpretations and views on how and to what extent girls and boys can interact with each other. This may be reflected in friendships. It can also affect whether young Muslims take part in school discos, balls or Valentine’s Day events, for example. Muslim families also have different interpretations of whether or not they can participate in music or art classes, or in what way they can participate. Every family has its own way. You can also openly discuss this with the teacher and agree on what to do.
Young people with an immigrant background have the right to participate in S2 (Finnish as a second language) teaching but also in classes of Finnish as a native speaker. Although the S2 group has more young people who look the same, and it feels familiar and like belonging to a group, it is worth taking part in the Finnish native language classes. Language skills improve a lot, self-confidence increases and more doors open to the future. Teachers do not have the right to decide on behalf of the family which education the young person will attend.
The young people of the Kölvi project have made videos for parents about going to school. Why is it important for young people to study, and what kind of support for studying do young people want from their parents?