Together for better educational Opportunities: Fourth Class of the Diesterweg Scholarship in Darmstadt despite the Coronavirus

The Diesterweg Scholarship (DWS) in Darmstadt is an educational project for the whole family. The two-year programme supports primary school children in the transition to secondary school while also supporting their parents and siblings in all matters relating to education and upbringing. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the fourth year has now been successfully completed. At the closing ceremony on Saturday, 27 March 2021, all the participants will be able to look back on the past months with confidence.

The concept of the funding programme, named after the reform educator Adolph Diesterweg, was developed by the Polytechnic Foundation of Frankfurt am Main. For more than ten years, it has focused on the important role the family plays in academic success in various places in Germany, and since 2013 also in Darmstadt thanks to the initiative of the Software AG Foundation (SAGST). Here, the Diakonische Werk Darmstadt-Dieburg coordinates the scholarship by organising family days and joint excursions as well as holiday courses for the scholarship children. In workshops, they practice learning strategies and techniques, acquire media literacy and discover their creative side. There are also consultation hours for individual counselling and assistance. Families can also apply for educational allowances for books and school supplies.

Seventeen families from four Darmstadt city neighbourhoods – a total of 84 people from many different countries of origin – took part in the current class. When they met in September 2019 at the Muckerhaus in Arheilgen for the kick-off, no one had any idea that a worldwide pandemic would upset the usual processes a few months later. Those in charge of the DWS also had to find new solutions to help families with the unfamiliar challenges of remote teaching and homeschooling during the lockdowns. “Without the families’ willingness to work with us to try out new digital and hybrid ways of communicating, the project team members would not have been able to conduct this class”, emphasises project coordinator Dr Ulrike Landzettel. “The parents’ great trust in us and our hygiene concepts for the holiday projects, which took place in person, facilitated our intensive contact with the children and young people despite COVID-19.”

“Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, our DWS time could not go ahead as planned”, says SAGST project manager Jana Weische as she greets participants in a video. “The fact that you stuck with it despite it all, even dealing with school or learning on weekends and daring to use completely new formats, shows how much you can achieve with each other as a family and in a community.” – “The last few months have made it clear that it is not easy to come together, learn or exchange information via digital formats”, adds Barbara Akdeniz, Head of Social Affairs for the city of Darmstadt (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). “That is why it was so important you had partners to facilitate fruitful discussions with you through these channels.”

The fourth class received financial support from the Hans Erich und Marie Elfriede Dotter-Stiftung, the Maria-Streibich-Stiftung, the Max und Käthe Kempf-Stiftung, as well as the Software AG Foundation and the Stiftungsfonds DiaStart of the Stiftung Diakonie Hessen.