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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: “Je vois quel genre de fille vous etes”

by M.-N.B.

“I Can See What Kind of a Girl You Are.”

Translated Friday 17 November 2006, by B. G.

A suburban teenager describes her difficulties studying with a prejudiced Principal.

Suburbs Special

Nihel was not aggressive. Her life revolved around school, family, and sport. “I was good…but I used to talk too much.” she says. That year – 2002, when she was eighteen – she failed her Business Studies school leaving certificate. One of those scholarly accidents that happen all the time. Nihel has no warnings or exclusions on her file. So was it her dark complexion, her street-chick style, or her big mouth? Whichever it was, next school term at enrolment, she came up against a snag. “The new Principal looked me up and down and told me ‘I can see what kind of girl you are.’” Nihel protested vehemently, reminding him that he didn’t know her and had no right to speak to her like that. “He threw me out and said ‘You will never set foot here again’”. Quite simply, she was forbidden to enrol.

Back home, she told all. Her father promptly paid a visit to the Education Department of Seine-Saint-Denis. Three weeks after term started she was finally enrolled in classes. Not in Business, her preferred subject option, but Communication. A matter of available places. “I arrived on the day of a test: the teacher gave me a zero mark straight away,” Nihel continues. Nor had the Principal finished with her. “He told me ‘I’m giving you one week to give up, two weeks till you get expelled.’ I was ready to leave.” Once again her father set off for the Education Department, determined to lay a complaint. “For mental harassment. We were assured that if there were the slightest further problem, an inspector would be sent.” Was the threat taken on board? The year passed without a hitch. Nihel failed her certificate again this time due to a car accident in May. Nevertheless she has scored a victory. “At the end of the year, the Principal apologised. He acknowledged that he had misjudged me.” Duly noted. “But still, it’s crazy. To them, failure means the same thing as delinquancy…it’s not like I was asking for anything weird. Just to be able to go to school.”

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