Live rent-free and help: Bildungsbuddies: Friends and role models

In Bremerhaven, seven students do not have to pay anything for their accommodation.

Live rent-free and help: Bildungsbuddies: Friends and role models

In Bremerhaven, seven students do not have to pay anything for their accommodation. In return for their place in a shared flat, they perform an important social task: They are educational buddies in a school where many children come from families with little education.

For some students it may sound like a dream, but for Lars Sychla it is reality: he lives rent-free in a two-person shared flat in a student residence in Bremerhaven. It is a modern new building in a central location, with fast internet and a communal garden. In return, the student has been taking care of fifth to seventh graders at the nearby school on Ernst-Reuter-Platz for 20 hours a month for a good two years - as an educational buddy.

On this day, the 30-year-old, together with two sixth-graders, is painting the underframe of a construction trailer that will later be parked in the schoolyard. "It could be used as a kiosk, games outlet or simply as a lounge," says Sychla. Seven educational buddies work at the school, which is called "the Ernst" for short. The Bildungsbuddy project, which has been running since spring 2020, is financed by a local foundation. He can organize his working hours himself, says Sychla: "That's a cool thing."

For his master's degree, he had moved from Hanover to Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences when the corona pandemic began. So the job as an education buddy came at just the right time. "I quickly made many contacts through the school, which made it easier for me to start here," he says. "And the students gave me a cool reception. They're always happy when I come."

The secondary school and student residence are located in the Lehe district, where many disadvantaged children live: It is not only the most populous district of Seestadt, but in the Goethestraße district almost every third workable person is unemployed. The proportion of children from educationally disadvantaged families is high. School is therefore a particularly important place for her, says headmistress Nicole Wind. "We're trying to break the Hartz IV chain a bit here and give the students a perspective in the world of work."

Projects outside of the classroom, such as the trailer project, the bicycle workshop or the blacksmith's shop, are of great importance. "With such measures, the children can discover their talents," says Wind. The educational buddies guide the children in the craft projects and help during the lessons.

But they are also there just to have a good time with them: cycling, playing basketball, going to the zoo or walking on the dyke, listening. "The children rarely come out of their street," says Wind. The students are like bigger brothers or sisters. "And they are educational role models," emphasizes the headmistress. Many of the 10 to 13-year-olds they looked after had not previously known what a university actually was.

Education buddy Omar Abdelal is in the 5m once a week. He sits in the classroom during class. If someone needs help, he comes to his place, explains tasks. If someone gets worried, they go and take care of it. "I immediately felt at home in the class, they welcomed me very well," says the 23-year-old, who has been working at the school for two months.

Of course, in addition to the teachers, there are also social workers at the school who are there for the children. "But they are busy with other things, they constantly have to deal with acute crises," says Wind. The young students could also find a completely different, unencumbered approach to the pupils.

"We have fun with him," says eleven-year-old Amina Berisa about education buddy Omar. "He makes us laugh." Twelve-year-old Elif says of the students: "You could say they're friends." And 13-year-old Tyler enjoys the trailer project so much that he can imagine working as a carpenter later.

Headmistress Wind copied the idea of ​​the educational buddies from the "Exchange Education for Living" association, which has been using sponsors at the Herbert Grillo Comprehensive School in Duisburg-Marxloh since 2014. Its manager, Thomas Zander, had talked about it at a training event. "Our students need people who are dedicated to them and willing to help them. That's what the educational sponsors do," emphasizes Zander.

His Bremerhaven colleague was immediately enthusiastic about the idea, and she was quickly able to convince all the stakeholders in Bremerhaven: be it the municipal housing association, which was planning a new student residence in Lehe, the Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences or the foundation, which is taking over the entire financial part.

For Sychla, his time as an educational buddy will soon be over with his master's degree. He started out with little experience with children, but has since come to appreciate working with them. "Just when you see that you bring joy to others, that's great." He is considering whether he should continue to volunteer at the school after his master's degree - should he stay in Bremerhaven - as a reading assistant, for example. "You give a lot, but you also get a lot back from the children," he says.