BONN, Germany – During the week break between the UNESCO Executive Board session and the General Conference, I had the pleasure of visiting the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Center in Bonn and partner agency InWent, the Capacity Building International Center of Germany, as well as the German National Commission (NatCom) for UNESCO.
The UNEVOC Officer-in-Charge Naing Yee Mar arranged the institutional visit with Dr. Harry Stolte of InWent. Two professional guides, Susanne Taron (Canada) and Michele Crimella (Italy), took me to several places in Bonn and Cologne. Jenny Pluckenbaum, the Boholano president of the dynamic Ladies of Rizal, Bonn Chapter was a great help for she spoke like a native German. This energetic team helped me discover Germany’s national policy for immigrants and refugees expressed in the phrase “education not deportation”.
Funded adequately, Germany is wise to help provide sustainable lives for these misplaced persons. Otherwise, it would prove more costly if they end up destructive or dependent on society.
Bonn, the UN Center of Germany
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 when West and East Germany united once more, the capital in Bonn was transferred to Berlin together with many Federal Ministries. The elegant mansions of various embassies and the building complex of the American community, as well as the famous American Club by the Rhine River were deserted.
Today, after two decades, the government converted Bonn into the UN Center with ultra modern glass and chrome buildings, which became the German Post and Communication Center, the building cluster for Climate Change and two huge convention centers. Both the German NatCom and InWent International keep their offices here, too.
UNEVOC to partner with Philippine Category 2 Center
Last March, I joined the UNESCO Mid-Decade Global Assessment of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the convention center, which was originally the plenary hall of the German Parliament. The Ladies of Rizal helped me set up the Pagsasarili Mothercraft exhibit for functional literacy. This attracted many UNESCO member states as ideal for sustaining village life in Africa, Latin America and Asia, particularly its illustrated Mothercraft literacy manual.
Naing Yee Mar, who met me at the Colombo Staff College in Manila, was able to relate to this practical ESD training, since she was a Burmese. She understood how essential practical literacy is for eradicating poverty for the disadvantaged.
As officer-in-charge of UNEVOC International programs for school leavers, foreign refugees and immigrants, she felt that partnership of the SEA-CLLSD (Southeast Asian Center for Lifelong Learning for Sustainable Development) with UNEVOC would reinforce the regional network of the 11 Southeast Asian countries (including the Philippines) for human capacity building throughout life with technical training of young adults. She agreed with me though that love for work and learning is best ignited from preschool to elementary school.
Naing’s assistants will help develop a “community” website together with me, the SEA-CLLSD secretariat, as well as the Philippine NatCom. This will be part of the TVetipedia so that Southeast Asians could collaborate in vocational training adaptable to its rich cultures and talents. UNEVOC has activated projects in West Visayas University in Iloilo and with TESDA, specially its regional office in Davao.
Bund International tech-voc dual system for migrants
Most Filipinos in Germany are either professional nurses, therapists, teachers or accountants. Many have their own houses. Usually married to professional Germans, they have an average of two children who attend German schools.
In the sixties, Germany allowed Turkish immigrants to do various technical jobs as carpenters, plumbers or welders. To ease their social adaptation, they had to learn German before they could upgrade training of their skills.
The immigrant population rapidly increased when conflicts in Africa and the Middle East drove more workers to Germany. Several without relatives were brought in by syndicates.
Bund International (BI) is an NGO voc-tech training center for the 16 to 25 year-old immigrant-apprentice. BI Coordinator Osman Tangdodu, together with Career Adviser Gert Schlender (married to Agnes Romualdez, a physiotherapist from Tacloban) explained that the training is free but requires basic ten-year schooling. A total of 12 to 13 years is the usual standard requirement: four years of grade school and nine years middle to high school.
About 133 students are enrolled at present. They qualify for a three-year apprenticeship divided between theoretical and on-the-job training. Mr. Schlender was sent by the Labor Ministry to select qualified trainees and employ them in various companies after they pass the exams given by the Chamber of Commerce. The Ministry covers the training expenses and provides monthly allowance of euro 450 per trainee.
We watched the students spread out in culinary training, warehouse work, landscaping layout, brick laying, and graphic arts. In another BI Center, we saw an actual contract signing for apprenticeship between a 23-year-old Peruvian Edwardo and Raphael Vollmar, owner of the prestigious luxury store for Meissen porcelain and lalique crystals. Edward would work in the inventory and accounting office of Mr. Vallmar.
CJD motto: Let nobody be lost
The Christian Youth Village Foundation of Germany (CJD – Christliches Jugenddorfwerk Deutschlands E.V.), established in 1947, is a member of the German YMCA. Marcus Besserer, the Director, personally toured us in the five-hectare compound filled with well-equipped landscaping shed where students were laying out brick pathway, while others were guided to use heavy-duty electric saws to cut logs. A regular hairdressing salon had uniformed students attending to the haircutting, dyeing and coiffeur of paying customers. A huge wood furniture-making workshop with two expert carpentry teachers showed finely done furniture, cabinets, window frames and state of the art computerized machines which produce items for school use. Several dormitories house students and a very well organized cafeteria integrate vocational training in housekeeping, painting and food service.
A big non-profit organization, it accepts all students whether with handicap or highly talented. Located in 150 sites in the country about 80 professions are made available for both young unqualified students and adults who have lost their jobs so they can retrain in another profession or acquire new qualifications.
AsA Ausbildung statt Abschie
AsA’s founders are four lady teachers. Funded by several small corporations, it keeps office in the ground floor studio of an old building in the business area of Bad Godesberg. Since 2001, volunteers of all ages come here to coach individual juvenile refugees to learn German and adjust to school life. Inspired by its laudable goal even my three companions volunteered to assist in tutoring.
A young social worker, Carmen, from Granada, Spain manages the office assisted by professional volunteers. The studio also serves as a study room, which is open all day usually after school hours from Monday to Saturday.
Syndicates just drop off these refugees by the charity shelter house. Sometimes, they are often found sleeping in the parks. Many come from Angola, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and lately some come from Vietnam or Bangladesh. Police usually find them without any documents or relatives. AsA looks after them and believes that so long as they can go back to school and learn to work they will not be deported.
‘Can we afford the future?’
Last week, I saw the BBC World Debate televised from Istanbul. Cleverly hosted by Nik Gowing, he used the theme “Can We Afford the Future?” This stimulated the brilliant and seasoned finance officials from IMF, Goldman Sachs Group, and EU like Ferguson Enterprise, Crusson, and J. O’Neil to ponder what awaits mankind, what with so many political, economic, social crises coming one after the other not to mention natural disasters and diseases.
Madame Sebacci, the business magnate of Turkey, sees that university courses will undergo changes because there are new needs. Academe will have to heighten studies and research on energy, environment and climate.
Everyone agreed with Finance Minister of France Christine Lagarde that life can persevere if there will be adequate employment. This can only be solved, they said, with quality vocational training that will qualify people for steady employment.
UNESCO UNEVOC has been leading the way in vocational technological training. Its program must be part of the legislative agenda all over the world. THAT IS HOW WE CAN AFFORD THE FUTURE.