The mayor of the Berlin district of Neukölln has one of his pleasant tasks to do at lunchtime: He honors 23 girls and boys who have passed their Abitur in his capital district, which is notorious for conflicts, with top grades: 1.0 and 1.1. Around half of the young people have a migration background.

Shortly after everyone has told them about their plans in turn and received a power bank as a gift, Martin Hikel (SPD) actually wants to take a photo together. One last question: “My parents are Syrians and come from a village that you might call a problem area,” says a young girl. “I myself have never experienced discrimination from my teachers, but many of my friends have. What do you want to do to prevent this in the future?”

Hikel clears his throat and then admits that it sometimes takes a long time to get prejudices out of your head. But you pay attention to a college in the schools that reflects the diversity among the students. The girl nods and adds that you can see from them that there are also many teachers who support children whose parents come from another country – with success.

Yujiachen Wang, 20 years old

“We only moved to Germany when we were 15 because we received a grant from the German and Chinese Culture Foundation. Otherwise our parents could never have afforded to send us to Germany. We lived with a host family for the first two years and have lived in our own apartment since we were 17 years old.

Our daily routine has been relatively similar so far. After school we make lunch, then homework, then get ready for the next day. The whole thing never took more than two hours. School is not that difficult in Germany. Also, we always helped each other.

For our Abitur, we spent a year investigating whether electric cars really are more environmentally friendly. A resounding yes is the answer. The effect will continue to increase in the future as long as the electricity is generated in a more environmentally friendly manner. We want to study computer science now. Perhaps also in order to further technically expand concepts for more environmentally friendly power generation.”

Anfal Bahri, 18 years old

“For my A-levels, I examined the extent to which claims and reality diverge when it comes to women’s emancipation – in French. My father is from Algeria, so I have an affinity for the French language.

The image conveyed in French women’s magazines such as “Elle” is still heavily cliched. Women still have to look almost perfect there. As far as gender equality is concerned, Germany still has a long way to go. Men in particular need to be made aware, for example of the fact that genital mutilation is still practiced in many countries.

I would like to study psychology and will now see in which city I can get a place. Friends who have had panic attacks or other mental health issues in the wake of the pandemic have told me that I am very good at listening and empathizing.

My mother is German, she converted to Islam. Religion is not that important to me myself, but that has just as little to do with my school performance as my origins. Everyone has the chance to show what they can do.”

Elisabeth Kendzia, 18 years old

“My major was physical education and my minor was biology. I combined both disciplines and investigated how physical activity affects neurobiological diseases. Cycling, for example, takes the strain off the motor system, and continuous movement prevents blockages in movement that people with Parkinson’s suffer from.

I’ve learned a lot over the past few years, including things that I didn’t find so exciting, such as math. But I wanted to see how far I could get if I did my best. Now I want to do something that really interests me and study Islamic theology.

My parents are not religious, my father is German, my mother is from Canada. I myself converted to Islam a few years ago, this religion is just very spiritual and my fulfilment.

I’ve been wearing a headscarf since I was 15. It is a sign for me that I represent Islam and a reminder that I want to be the best version of myself every day. Where exactly my professional path will take me is still open to me.”

“Kick-off Politics” is WELT’s daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.