The registration weeks for the secondary schools here in Hamburg were recently (my colleague Julia Stanek has already had similar experiences).

Not for our twin daughters, who turned 15 this week.

But for Sobhi.

He is 11 years old and has been a German citizen for a few weeks.

His parents fled Syria to Germany.

My girlfriend and I have been supporting the family's integration for several years, and that's why I went along when Sobhi wanted to register for the fifth grade at a Hamburg high school.

The high school was recommended to me because it was one of the first schools to teach refugees in 2015.

In addition, the high school - unlike Sobhi's place of residence, a hotspot - has a high social index, which describes the socio-economic background of the students.

It became the most terrifying conversation I've ever had in a school.

The head of the observation level department asked Sobhi why he wanted to go to school, with the emphasis: Why do

you of all people

want to go to

our school


He would have to learn a lot and he would not receive any support from the school; it was not provided for.

And it would be very sad if he had to leave high school after the 6th grade.

With his grades, Sobhi is exactly between the high school and district school recommendations (i.e. secondary school and secondary school, as it used to be called).

And his primary school class teacher, as she told me, had also wavered and found that both paths were right for him.

His motivation to learn is far above average, as the certificate says.

But his primary school start fell during the Corona lockdown.

This was very difficult for him - like for many other children - especially since he had to learn two foreign languages: German and English.

During the conversation, I pointed out to the teacher that Sobhi got an A in math.

She literally said: "I have to


, he's great at math." Admit it?

Not: acknowledge?

And then the sentence followed: “They are also happy at district schools if a child there can do math.” I said that it was also about the social environment and that Sobhi should get to know a different environment.

The answer: “Education has nothing to do with the environment.”

I'm sorry, what?

Exactly the opposite is the case!

A large OECD study has shown that half of all children from high-income families in Germany are prepared for reading and arithmetic at home before starting school, but only a third of children from poor families are.

And children from migrant families are affected by poverty far more than average.

The OECD study also found: "In schools where most students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, student achievement tends to be poorer - regardless of the socioeconomic status of their parents.

Segregation and low social mixing can therefore increase inequality of opportunity.«

Unfortunately, segregation in Hamburg has a system: the route to school determines which school the children go to.

This is how the schools in the neighborhoods of the rich keep children from poor families away.

The consequence is that the schools with the best average Abi grades are all in the exclusive districts.

Isolated and inaccessible to children growing up in poverty.

Sobhi cried later and I was very angry.

After the conversation, we went to a local school where the head of the lower school was very committed to recruiting Sobhi - but also thought he could just as easily go to high school.

And we visited another high school within walking distance of his home, where the teacher said after reading the certificate: "You belong with us." His parents enrolled Sobhi immediately.

So that Sobhi has a better start in high school, I looked for reading support.

I contacted associations and the public library halls in Sobhi's neighborhood that had been obliged to do so since January: they were all fully booked.

He is now on the waiting list.

By the way, my daughter has tutoring in math. She didn't have to hope for a place because we pay for it privately.

Equal opportunities looks different.

My reading tips

My colleagues recently researched how educational inequality divides society, and they also describe what solutions there could be.

I also find the conversation between a social climber and a social climber about the lack of permeability in our society illuminating.

One of the luxury concerns, on the other hand, is the phenomenon of the “Sephora kids”.

Unfortunately, Sephora cosmetics are also a big topic for our daughters.

Also on their wish list for their 15th birthday was “Flawless Filter” or “Setting Spray”, of course only available at Sephora, and I asked, perplexed, why they needed a “Flawless Filter” for their flawless skin?

“Why should I make a wish list if you don’t want to buy me anything?” was the counter question.

I walked into the Sephora store feeling slightly depressed, found myself among dozens of teenagers, and was both relieved and shocked to see that all the products on the wish list were sold out.

Our new coaching on the topic of “gaining confidence” can help against feelings of depression.

You can never have enough of it.

The Last Judgement

Our twin daughters are very different, so one celebrates her birthday party with her “closest friends” (=60 people!), the other has a crime dinner with her closest friends (=12 people).

Due to the limited budget, there are soft drinks, gummy bears and chips at the big party and a three-course menu at the crime dinner.

I got the suggestion for the dessert from Verena Lugert, and it's called: "Death by Chocolate".

I think this is pretty fitting for a crime dinner.

My moment

A reader wrote to me about the text about the naturalization of Sobhi and his family and described her experiences as a teacher in a German course for refugees:

»There were so many young men standing outside the door staring at me.

Tall, thin German woman, of course they found me really interesting at first.

I said 'Hello' to everyone, or 'Hello', because some of them spoke English.

And no one came close to me, or anything that some media or especially my mother thought would happen to me among these strangers.

On the contrary, the guys were totally polite, there were also two women and a child.

And I remember being shocked at how the people there had to live in that initial reception center.

It was cramped, musty, and there were no doors or walls.

The areas were separated by ceilings hung over ropes.

That was all.

There were stoves and washing machines in certain corners, but the showers were for everyone.

To do this you had to cross the yard.

It's a miracle that people got along with each other.

There was another corner with a TV, I think.

Nothing else.

No one was allowed to work, which some of those who spoke English found very strange.

A young man looked for a kitchen job on his own initiative, only to find out that he wasn't allowed to work at all.

He didn't understand that.

Me neither, by the way.”

I also received other mail, including some not so friendly ones.

But I was particularly pleased about this report.

Because that's exactly how I experienced it in the one year in which I reported on an initial admission every week.

Maybe you also have experience with a fifth grade registration interview?

Or the shopping spree at Sephora?

I look forward to receiving mail:

Kind regards,

Marianne Wellershoff