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School row as parents 'flee' over foreign pupils

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The percentage of foreign children in schools is highest in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia Romagna. Photo: Marco Antonio Torres/Flickr
13:09 CEST+02:00
A tiny school in northern Italy has become the focus of a row after it was claimed that almost all Italian parents had withdrawn their children in protest at the number of foreign pupils. But the town's mayor has denied that the school has a problem.

“It’s absolutely not true,” local mayor Marisa Albertini told The Local, after reports circulated that Italians had abandoned the elementary school in Landiona, in Piedmont, because of the ratio of Italian to foreign children.

“There are about 25 foreign children registered at the school, but only around six attending at the moment,” she said. They were joined this week by just one Italian child, although Albertini denied the community has a problem with foreigners. “It’s an open school and community,” she said.

With just 600 residents in Landiona, the local school caters for a handful of children and as a result risked closure a decade ago, Novaro Today reported. When contacted by The Local, the school’s headteacher was unavailable for comment.

The debate over balancing the number of foreign and Italian students has also struck in Costa Volpino, an area in the northern Lombardy region with 9,000 residents.

At the start of the academic year the school there were just 14 students at the Istituto Comprensivo di Costa Volpino, as the seven registered Italian students had been transferred to other schools in the area. The Italian children were withdrawn from the school because there were “too many foreigners”, Brescia Today said.

Discussing the issue, Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge said that the debate over foreign children in schools missed a key point about the rules governing Italian nationality.

“There are a number of children of immigrants, who were born in Italy and have grown up here,” she told La Repubblica.

Under the country’s immigration law, a child born in Italy to foreign parents cannot gain Italian citizenship until they are 18 and so are registered under their parents’ nationality. “We must understand that the children defined as foreigners in reality aren’t foreign,” Kyenge told the newspaper.

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As a result she said it was difficult to adhere to the recommended quota of restricting the ratio of foreign children to 30 percent of each class.

In the 2011-2012 school year there were 755,939 children registered who did not hold Italian citizenship, according to a government report. The percentage was higher in the northern regions of Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia Romagna, whereas in Campania, Sardinia and Sicily 40 to 46 percent of schools had no foreign students.

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