Europe in My Region

Hello, hallo, buon giorno Mummies of Europe. Today, I want to tell you about a European project that is of particular interest to me: the Strasbourg-Kehl French-German nursery.

This is a repost of LA CRÈCHE FRANCO-ALLEMANDE, originally published in French by Sandra Dranne Foussier (@mamansdeurope, Facebook, Instagram), and submitted to the Europe in My Region 2016 blogging competition.

I found out about this project from the database of projects supported by the European Union. It was an initiative of the city of Strasbourg and its German neighbour, Kehl. As you may know, the two towns are separated only by a bridge.

A great idea…

The idea is to offer 30 places to families in Strasbourg and a further 30 to families in Kehl. The children are therefore in a bilingual environment, but they are spoken to in their mother tongue. The teaching staff are trained to work with children from more than one culture and help them to make connections, regardless of their language.

The facilities at the nursery encourage free movement and help the children to develop their independence. The staff choose to apply open learning methods, as the head teacher, Marie-Madeleine Schwaller, explains in this video. The individual children and their own routines are respected, in contrast to the usual routines at nurseries.

…where both parties are equal

The nursery is in France and complies with French law. This French-German project requires recruitment, decisions and promotion of the nursery to be a joint effort between the two towns. But there are limitations to this alignment… To the disadvantage of families living in the area where the nursery is located. The way in which the 60 places on offer are allocated is not the same in each country. And families with the same level of income do not pay the same rate. There is a risk that the nursery will become the domain of the “bourgeois bohemian”, as the online newspaper Rue89 rightly points out here. Children from the area are not given priority, and applications are processed in the order in which they are received.

…a significant investment

The investment made to build the Maison de la Petite Enfance nursery was €3.36 million, of which €1.68 million came from the European Union, via its regional policy. This sum came from the “common pot” to which member states contribute, which is then redistributed based on selected priorities. This project comes under the priority of employment, social inclusion and education. A list of supported projects can be found in the database of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional Policy (REGIO) here.

My view

I would like to have access to this type of facility for Baby Lou, but I think such establishments are the exception rather than the rule. I don’t know what the criteria are for allocating places at the nursery; that’s up to the towns involved. I found an innovative initiative run by Marlène Schiappa and her “Maman travaille” (working mums) network: the “Transparence crèche” (nursery transparency) pact. This pact involves greater transparency regarding the allocation of nursery places. It has been signed by the mayors of Paris, Bordeaux and Le Mans. So when will Angers get involved??

A sense of belonging in Europe

I couldn’t neglect to mention something that broke my heart when I woke up on Friday morning: the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU. I grew up with Europe, and I learnt English as my first modern language so I could read Oasis lyrics and understand them at last. I studied in Germany, on the ERASMUS programme, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next June. I worked in Dublin for two years. My best friends are in Ireland and Italy.

The end for Europe?

I am sad that my daughter will not know the European Union with its 28 members. It’s important to get to know other European cultures so that we can move forward together and not become inward-looking, as advocated by many populist parties. I hope that the bilingual nursery project can provide an answer to this challenge of living together, particularly in a cross-border area.

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