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Sep 26, 2010 at 09:46 PM

ImageWell, it's September and it' "back-to-school" time in Italy as more or less everywhere else in our parts of the world. But in Italy, September is even more of a "starting-over" period. The summer - which for the majority boils down to August - is lived so intensely that when people do come back home - the so-called rientro - it's kind of like a rebirth. Anyway, this time I, too, kind of bailed out on you readers for a while. I was only away for a short period of vacation. But as the news from Italy was mostly depressing, and as I have had a great deal of work, I did somewhat neglect Stranitalia, for which I apologize.

So September came and Italian children went back to school, but their parents, at least, were not in the best of spirits. The recent Italian school reform, put into effect by the Berlusconi government and spearheaded by Italian education minister, Mariastella Gelmini, has angered both teachers and parents. Many teachers are pissed because the reform does little to relieve the unhappy situation of the thousands - the figure seems to be around 110,000 - of substitute teachers who do not have full-time contracts and who are not likely to see one anytime soon. Parents are upset because classes are too big and afternoon hours in some cases have been cut back significantly.

And others are upset because despite a norm that says no class should have more than 30% of foreign-born children, this is not always the case. For example, in the Iow-income Roman suburb, Tor Pignattara, this year the two first grade class will be made up entirely of the children of immigrants, with only two Italian children out of 39 students. One of the sections, will b made up of 19 children, all of whom have foreign-born parents, for the most part - in this case - Bengalis and Chinese. Many elementary schools in Milan are also in a similar situation but worried parents should remember that mot of these children were born in Italy and therefore already speak Italian.

A few days after the school year began, the Rome city government's education councillor came under attack from the left by referring to immigrant children in another Roman school as "foreigners". But that is what they are. Italy, unlike the United States or neighboring France where citizenship is a birthright (those who are born there. Automatically become citizens, unless they are children of foreign diplomats), does not automatically confer citizenship on a person who is born here. So a child born to immigrant parents who are bonafide residents will have all the privileges of a bonafide resident but only at 18 years of age can he or she apply for Italian citizenship (which, barring special circumstances, should at that point be more or less automatic).

The next school question to come up was that of a new elementary school in the town of Adro, near Brescia in the Italian north, which mayor Oscar Lanciani, had had decorated (some 700 were plastered on walls, desks, windows and even wastepaper baskets) with a green flower symbol that is the symbol of the sometimes secessionist Northern League party. Minister Gelmini ordered him to remove the symbols, which had replaced the Italian flag, but so far - and despite various protests by political activists and parents and now by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano - he has not done so saying he would only follow orders form party leader, Umberto Bossi. Subsequently, the same mayor made more headlines announcing that the school cafeteria would not offer special menus for Muslems. "Anyone who doesn't like Brescia food is free to go have lunch at home". He was quoted as saying.

Unfortunately, the rientro did not bring with it anything new in the field of politics. Stay tuned and I'll explain better later this week.


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