Michael Stenger (Germany)



THE HUMAN IMPACT: The right to asylum is a humanitarian cornerstone in Germany. Its implementation, however, reflects the way policymakers actually perceive asylum seekers and refugees: as costly threats to society. Under current law and bureaucracy, unaccompanied underage asylum seekers over 16 years of age are prevented from attending school, learning German and acquiring vocational skills. Such policies have led this group to become disempowered and often confirm negative stereotypes by turning to drugs, crime and prostitution.

THE NUMBERS IMPACT: Having successfully established Schlau schools in Munich with 145 students, Schlau-Schule is expanding throughout Bavaria, Germany’s largest state.

HOW DOES IT WORK? Recognizing the systematic discrimination that underage asylum seekers experience Michael is providing young refugees a chance for education and integration into German society while also changing negative public perceptions towards this group. By establishing and spreading a cost efficient and effective private school system for this highly discriminated group, Michael develops the individual skills and potentials of youth refugees throughout Germany. Young refugees originate from diverse backgrounds but face the common struggle of lacking German language skills and previous education. To address the shortfalls of the education system, was founded in Munich, and offers young refugees a chance for an education and integration into society. By structuring courses analogous to state schools and providing first-class student services such as social-psychological aid and legal assistance, his students have an extraordinarily high success rate at the basic state school exam, which enables them to qualify for vocational studies and a professional career. Skillfully bringing these success stories to the attention of politicians, state welfare organizations and the wider public, Schlau-Schule is transforming the perception of young asylum seekers in the eyes of relevant stakeholders.

WHO STARTED IT? A pacifist, Michael was one of the first Germans to choose alternative social service in place of compulsory military service. He has spent his life working with refugee issues, from the UNHCR to founding various asylum organizations. When he returned to training teachers in teaching German as a foreign language, he noticed the growing resignation of his colleagues in dealing with young immigrants. Michael realized that a special institution was necessary to offer this unique group opportunity for sustainable education and integration.

HOW HELLO EUROPE IS HELPING: Introducing Schlau-Schule to Ashoka’s global and German-wide network to open doors and help plan expansion.

WHAT THEY NEED NOW: Financed through a complex system of different state and communal funding and foundations, Schlau-Schule is looking for introductions to local and national government and charitable bodies.

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