We are standing in front of the “Silo 2” in Aarau, being unsure whether we ended up in the right place. Hesitating we climb up the stairs to the second floor. Through the doorframe we catch sight on an improvisely furnished room. When a girl of our age curiously holds out her hand to us we know we are at the right place. One of the responsibles welcomes and invited us into the small office/ broom closet and introduces us to the current situation:
6 months ago the Federation allocated 120 to 150 UMA to the canton Aargau. They currently have accommodation in two different locations.
Switzerland is obliged to grant for special protection and support for minors in need of protection since they signed the Human Rights Convention of the UN. Altough the Federation gives specific recommendations to pay attention especially on the minors, it has not determined to which extent this should happen. In Switzerland, the compulsory school attendance and therefore the right to education as well ends with the age of 16. This mainly leads to problems concerning adolescents. Children under the age of 16 are required to attend school and are allocated to so called “regional integration centres” before they are ready for enrolment at school. Children from 16 to 18 not having this possiblity are lacking structure and activities. They face a daily life with little to do.
The “association network asylum” was of the strong oppinion that this needed to change. So they started the pilot scheme “Project UMA – Living and Learning” about one year ago. It isn’t financed by the canton and, with exception to two part-time employees, only works thanks to several volunteers. About 40 UMA are currently being a part of the project. Different volunteers, of which some retired teachers, teach the UMA in German and maths to art and everyday knowledge, e.g. plants, recycling and cooking. Besides strict distribution of jobs such as cleaning and tyding up the adolescents have the possibility to participate on excursions where they get to know our culture and traditions.
Silently we enter a small classroom. At a moment a future pedagogics student is teaching 8 students in German. They practice on talking about their hobbies and get to know the German terms for some animals. The atmosphere is cheerful, the students are motivated and support each other. Still, after the last exercise, a short dictation, the concentration starts to fade. Saying goodbye to each other one friendly shakes hands. We didn’t say “see you tomorrow” but we are excited for another meeting on Thursday!