Weekend College: school and more in Zuidoost

Motivated children, of whom a great majority have African parents, voluntarily wake up early every Saturday to participate in Weekend College activities. “For the almost 100 children who come to Weekend College, this place is not a sixth school day. It is a safe space where they can be the intelligent children they are.”

School and more
Weekend College is an educational support activity that is carried out at ROC van Amsterdam, with subsidy from the municipal council of Amsterdam Zuidoost. The organization welcomes students who attend all levels of secondary education, from VMBO to HAVO and VWO, in the South-East of Amsterdam. Activities at Weekend College range from simple educational assignments, to field trips in order to bolster the children’s cultural and general knowledge. Marvin Hokstam, the Project Manager, says: “These are needs of every regular kid, whether their parents speak Dutch or not, or whether they can afford expensive cultural visits.” Many of the coaches and tutors taking part in the project are young adults who themselves are from Zuidoost and “are fully aware of the challenges the students face growing up. We create an interaction with things that the students generally will not come in touch with in school. That is why our slogan is ‘school and more’,” says Hokstam.

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Marvin Hokstam, Project Manager of Weekend College.

The road to university
The Project Manager says that one of the objectives of the collaboration between mentors, volunteers and university students within the project is to motivate and encourage adolescents from Zuidoost to make informed choices within the educational system. “Many children of first generation immigrants in the Bijlmer do not know what their options are. Many parents do not either.” For this reason, “Weekend College also provides support and informational sessions for both children and parents.” Weekend College promotes interests in furthering the students’ education to university level given they “often end up on a VMBO track while they have the intellectual capacity for HAVO and even VWO.”

In fact, although IAmsterdam portrays the Dutch educational system as ‘strong and well-balanced’, the website also reports that the results of the CITO test, and especially the school recommendations, have a considerable impact on determining a child’s educational track. A child’s future is often predetermined when they are twelve years old, unless parents have knowledge about the educational system and have the opportunity to be more involved in the child’s education. “For a child who ends up on the wrong track, it means a significantly longer road to university.” Hence, when a child expresses the wish to access university, Weekend College provides the necessary support.

Under-representation of diverse cultures
The Project Manager explains the importance of Weekend College’s system of providing an external adult figure in the children’s lives that they can relate to: “Many of our children are first generation immigrants, whose parents moved to the Netherlands. People with their backgrounds are not dominant in this society, so it becomes important for them to interact with people that look like them, who are excelling in life, who are studying.”

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Marvin Hokstam: “Many of our children are first generation immigrants, whose parents moved to the Netherlands. People with their backgrounds are not dominant in this society.”

Yet, under-representation of diverse cultures is still an existing issue that is being tackled in the domain of education. The Universiteit van Amsterdam’s (UvA) diversity committee is only one of many examples that strives for more representative universities. Considering the fact that only ten percent of undergraduates in the Netherlands has a non-Western background, the UvA is slightly above the national figure with thirteen percent (source: CBS).

Thus, Weekend College becomes an example of showing the importance of guidance and mentorship specifically for children who are first generation migrants, but also generally for children, who need to be aware of their options within the Dutch educational system and the Dutch society.