By Theresa Ritzer, Project Reconnect
It’s been three years since Haxhere Salkurti and her husband moved from Albania to Gelsenkirchen, Germany – without speaking a single word of German. Today, Haxhere teaches German courses for refugees and uses laptops to make the lessons more interactive and fun. With the help of Google Chromebooks from NetHope’s Project Reconnect, refugees practice the pronunciation of German words and sentences, and learn about life in Germany.
“I would have liked such a Chromebook when I learned German myself,” notes Haxhere. Instead, she taught herself the new language with books, working through many volumes on grammar and vocabulary in Gelsenkirchen’s central library. Haxhere is also studying Arabic, so she can better communicate with the refugees whom she teaches German. “We help each other,” says Haxhere, “I teach them German and they improve my Arabic.”
Haxhere is a business school graduate, but she got her start teaching German through “Offen Alpha GE,” a program designed to combat illiteracy in Gelsenkirchen. By the time the first language course for refugees began in 2016, Haxhere was already helping as a learning assistant. Six months later, she was teaching her third course. Each course consists of about 15 women, many of whom have fled from Syria and Iraq and now want to learn the German language. They get support from Haxhere and four Chromebooks, which the Gelsenkirchen adult education center, or Volkshochschule, received from Project Reconnect. NetHope launched Project Reconnect in early 2016, thanks to a generous donation from Google.org. The initiative provides managed Chromebooks to nonprofit organizations supporting refugees across Germany.
Haxhere says the Chromebooks are perfect for the courses she’s teaching because most of the work is done in groups. For the German lessons, participants use the online courses of the Volkshochschule at Ich-will-Deutsch-lernen.de and other language portals. Haxhere sees huge value in the way the Chromebooks help students practice pronunciation. Students listen to audio files from the language portals and try to match the proper pronunciation. “Books don’t offer this option,” she says.
The Chromebooks also help students access valuable online resources about German culture and living in Germany, as well as leverage helpful online services. Haxhere remembers a student who used the Chromebooks to research housing options in Gelsenkirchen and found an apartment over the internet. The “Einstieg Deutsch” courses also include trips to the city, to the library or to flea markets and bazaars. After the flea market visit the female students returned to the classroom and started researching online for other markets in Gelsenkirchen, where they can buy, for example, affordable clothing for children.
Together with a colleague from the “Offen Alpha” team, Haxhere is setting up a learning corner in the library of Gelsenkirchen. There, the Chromebooks can be used to study German or to take advantage of other online training programs outside the classroom hours. “The participants, who do not have a computer at home, can continue their studies in this learning corner,” she says. “This is a great help.”
In addition to her work as a learning assistant, the mother of two small daughters has been working at the Women’s Advisory Center of Gelsenkirchen for more than a year, putting her new Arabic skills to use as an interpreter.
“The most important thing for successful integration is someone’s personal commitment,” says Haxhere. She points to herself as an example, a woman in a career that she hadn’t even considered previously. “I graduated from business school. Now I teach women German.”