In an attitude survey conducted by YLE last week, directors of multicultural meeting points around Finland related immigrants’ experiences of racist behaviour in schools today. According to the findings, racist name-calling is often not recognised as such; in the upper grades issues such as bullying are not taken up, and even some teachers continue to use racially charged expressions.
Researcher Anna Rastas of Tampere University is not surprised at the racist attitudes among teachers.
“I train many teachers, and I have met attitudes, actions, and manners of speech, which I feel were racist”, Rastas says.
In her view the biggest problem is that teachers often do not recognise racism, and that people working in schools do not know how immigrants experience the words spoken by a teacher.
“There are many teachers in Finland who have not needed to ponder racism in their own lives, and who have not encountered these matters in their teacher training either”, Rastas says.
"Teachers Sometimes Crush Immigrants’ Ambitions"
After living in Finland for six years, 22-year-old Najma Abdirahman nods when asked if there is racism in Finnish schools, and if teachers display prejudice. Abdirahman says that immigrant children are often blamed first in cases of bullying.
Abdirahman also says that teachers often do not encourage immigrant children to excel.
“Some children have been told, for instance, that there is no point for them to dream of a career in medicine, because they are immigrants. ‘you shouldn’t have such expectations’ a teacher might say.”
Union Leader Wants More Multicultural Training
Erkki Kangasniemi, the Chairman of the Trade Union of Education in Finland, does not see racism among teachers to be a serious problem. Kangasniemi believes that the issue partly involves misunderstandings. However, he admits that teachers need more training in multicultural issues.
“In spite of all our demands, the employers are not investing in these kinds of matters. Perhaps today, these kinds of things are taken up in teacher training to some degree, but 20 years ago, this kind of thing did not exist.
Somali-born Nadma Abdirahman says that Finns should be getting used to foreigners by now, and the fact that this is not the case is even more surprising when teachers are involved.
“Racism from a teacher or a police officer is worse than when it comes from someone on the street. A teacher should be a person who promotes fair play in this world,” Abdirahman says.