Normal in El Salvador but not Sweden

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Adelina Nolasco-Frisk and Adhemar De Alencar don't know where to turn for help with their daughter, Dorita, 13. They returned to Sweden in May after spending 10 weeks in Adelina's native El Salvador, and now Dorita is talking of suicide and refusing to go to school.

Dorita was a bubbly, gregarious child until she was bullied at primary school. At 10, her parents were told that she needed extra help because of her poor reading and writing skills and fragile psychological state.

"I trusted them," says Adelina. "They said they knew what was best for my daughter."

The school and district council suggested Dorita attend a special school in Solna, outside Stockholm, to help. Three years later her parents still don't understand why she is in a class with pupils who are severely physically handicapped. "Dorita doesn't understand it either," Adhemar, a trade lobbyist, tells me.

"She gets upset. Other kids tease her that she's a spastic."

Like many immigrants, her parents don't really know their way around the maze of Swedish administration although they have lived in the country for almost 30 years.

When Dorita showed no sign of progress and her condition steadily worsened as she started to talk of suicide, her mother pressed the school and local council to re-examine Dorita's case.

"I felt she needed a therapist or psychiatric help but nobody would listen to me," she said.

In desperation Adelina took Dorita out of school for two months while she visited relatives in El Salvador. "After a few weeks she picked up, began to eat properly and even started attending a local school where she was able to participate actively. The teachers were pleased with her."

Adhemar doesn't understand why in El Salvador Dorita was "just like any other student. But in Sweden she's classified as handicapped".

She is now considering returning to El Salvador with Dorita, even though her brother and uncle were murdered there.

"I just want Dorita to have the chance of a proper education like other children," she says.

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