The European Schools of Brussels have been under great stress for a long period of 10 years due to overcrowding.
The inaction of the Belgium state to comply with its legal obligations to provide a new school, coupled with the lack of real pressure from the European Commission for it to do so, led to an extreme situation that needs very urgent attention.
Recently though, the Belgian state finally offered a ‘viable’ location for the next new school: the old NATO site in Evere. The problem is that, according to the earliest projections this school will only be ready in 2026 or, more likely, in 2028. Furthermore, it is already anticipated that when the school is ready, a new one will be needed…
Meanwhile the situation became so critical that it has been decided that a temporary school, made of prefabricated materials, will be built at the same site of the new future school. The construction of this temporary school has not yet started and is expected to be ready to start its operations in September 2021 (10 months from today). This is a very ambitious goal that we sincerely hope will me met.
The new temporary school will not be an independent school. Instead, it will be an antenna of the European School of Brussels 2 (EEB2), located in Woluwe, some 6 Km away from the new Evere site.
Recently it came to light that there were three proposals on how to populate the school. The first would see the school filled with new enrolments of children without siblings in any other European School or voluntary transfers to it. The second would see the Pre-school and Primary levels moved to the new site. The third and last option would see all Pre-school and Primary move to Evere.
While option two and three would allow the new site to be filled up much quicker than with option one and also a faster relieve on the overcrowding of the main school site of Woluwe, it would imply that many siblings would be split across two different schools with all the logistics implications. It would also much increase the time to travel to the new school for many children, whose families have organised their lives and living arrangements according to the location of the Woluwe school.
On 2 October, the parents association (APEEE) informed parents of the three options and declared that it would not take a position on any of the options because it considered that different groups of parents had different opinions and therefore it had no mandate to represent anyone, even if they didn’t consult parents. The same communication also informed that on the 20 of that month the Board of Governors of the European Schools (BoG) would vote to chose one of the three options.
In the face of this, the parents of pupils attending Pre-school and Primary organised, mobilised and launched a series of lobbying initiatives:
- a survey was prepared and proposed to the APEEE (which didn’t take it up and instead rushed to prepare their own),
- a letter to Commissioner Hahn was drafted and sent,
- the same was done to Mr. Giancarlo Marcheggiano, the Secretary General of the European Schools,
- and to many of the Members of the BoG.
Eventually the Commission, which had itself proposed option three, changed its mind and swayed towards option one and, for the great relieve of many parents, the vote on the 20 October went for this option.
This was a true grassroots movement that Generation 2004 was very happy to support when it sent a letter to the BoG on the eve of the vote.
In the end, and unfortunately, the overcrowding of the Woluwe school will take longer to see any real relieve. However, if other options would have allowed this relieve to come quicker, it would have been at the expense of the Pre-school and Primary pupils and their families, when they have no responsibility in the sad situation the Brussels European School system is facing and has faced for many years.
Interesting enough that the Local Staff Committee Brussels under its new President is not interested in the subject. Generation 2004 requested to have a debate on this urgent issue during the 13 October LSC Bureau meeting. However, it was refused to be added as an agenda point and was discussed merely for few minutes under AOB.