VUB celebrates success of Arabic lessons for children


300 pupils in Brussels taught by volunteers with refugee backgrounds will receive certificates this week, as organisers look for ways to expand the courses

Full to capacity

Three hundred Brussels schoolchildren will receive Arabic language certificates this week after following lessons organised by the Free University of Brussels (VUB). The scheme has grown rapidly since its launch in 2016, with numbers nearly doubling in its second year. With the classes now at full capacity, the organisers are looking for ways to grow further.

The initiative is a collaboration between VUB, GO! Scholen Groep Brussel and the University Centre for Development Cooperation (UCOS). “The intention is to teach Arabic in a school environment and a secular context, based on a scientific method,” explained Sami Azar, project leader and pioneer of the initiative. 

The classes are for children aged between six and 15, particularly those who have some cultural connection with the Arabic-speaking world. They might have an Arabic family background, for example, or refugee parents, or come from a mixed family. But the classes are also open to children who simply want to improve their Arabic.

Lessons are held in four Brussels schools, with the pupils divided into five groups of 15. The teachers, many of them volunteers, all have refugee backgrounds and experience of teaching in their countries of origin. Azar, for example, was a headmaster in Syria.

The scheme is currently full, with 300 children already enrolled for next year and a long waiting list to join. “We would like to expand,” says Azar, “but for this we need additional resources. Through the VUB Foundation we are trying to attract philanthropic funds so we can develop the project in a sustainable way.”

The award ceremony on 5 May will be attended by VUB rector Caroline Pauwels and the ambassadors of Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait and Oman.

Photo courtesy VUB