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Stacks of papers lie in Jordi Lopez’s somewhat empty living room in El Prat, a town near Barcelona. They are judicial documents, objections, and defenses before the European Parliament. They are all about Lopez’s battle to get more Spanish lessons for his children. And less in Catalan.
Lopez says the problems are big for his eldest son, who is deaf. Since the family spoke Spanish at home, his son had a learning disability. “My son finds it more difficult to attend classes than other children. It would be better if the classes were partly in Spanish. But the school doesn’t want to hear about that.” The language we’re speaking here is Catalan, “it was a response.”
Following court rulings, the state must teach a quarter of classes in schools in Spanish. But in practice, this number is not reached. The Catalan administration, formed by two separatist parties, supports school boards that break the rules. In this way, schools can better adapt to the “linguistic reality”.
Lopez doesn’t believe much in this theory. “Five years ago, separatist groups tried to make their way through a referendum. Now language has become the weapon of independence parties. It indoctrinates children through language. Spanish lessons only take two hours a week.”
But Teresa Vivancos, a primary school principal in Badalona, sees it differently. It exhibits the school building, where the majority of Spanish-speaking children receive almost all of the Catalan language lessons. This local language is closer to French and Italian than Spanish. “Here everyone has the right to speak Catalan,” says Vivancos. “The only way is to immerse the children in the Catalan language.”
Vivancus has fond memories of the referendum five years ago. While that didn’t end with the desired independence, she believes it will one day. “Teaching in Catalan is inevitable if we want to have our own country. A country of our own, separate from the Spanish state. This is the language of this country.”
At least eighty parents, including Jordi Lopez, have initiated individual lawsuits against the Catalan government to enforce Spanish-language education. Some political parties and other organizations support the objectors. They not only want to teach Spanish as a separate language, but also want to use it in classes in other subjects.
Lopez has clearly shown that it is far from that. “There is a lot of fear among parents, because it is about their children. Nobody talks to me anymore when I take the children to school. I was kicked out of the WhatsApp group in class. I became isolated.”
Principal Vivancos sees it very differently: “Parents who want us to speak more Spanish in class have no idea what is happening in our schools. They are using their children in their political struggle.”
And this is exactly the same blame that the other camp places on the struggle of the Catalan school.