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Working at a German school is not just about reading and writing, maths and singing songs, says newly minted Syrian assistant teacher Hend al-Khabbaz.

She was surprised to discover there is also a mountain of paperwork and administrative tasks to perform.

The school "is better for the children, but it's a lot of work for the teachers," the 35-year-old says with a laugh, speaking in German which she has learnt since fleeing her war-torn homeland less than three years ago.

Khabbaz's new workplace is the Sigmund Jaehn primary school in Fuerstenwalde, a town of drab pre-fabricated housing blocks in Germany's formerly communist east, 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Berlin.

That's around 3,500 kilometres from the home she left in Homs, Syria, where she taught English before boarding an overcrowded boat for her escape to Europe.

After a gruelling trek along the Balkans route, she requested asylum in Germany in September 2015, at the peak of a mass influx that has since brought more than a million refugees and migrants.

While Germany has struggled to integrate many of the newcomers, Khabbaz got a lucky break and through her hard work now has a full-time job in her profession.

She is one of the first graduates of Potsdam University's pioneering Refugee Teachers Programme, which readies foreign teachers to enter the German school system.

Of the initial 700 applicants in 2016, 85 percent were Syrians.

"These are people who have had a good university education," says Miriam Vock, the professor who initiated the programme.

"We want to give them the chance to be able to work again here."

- Memories of war -

In the corridors of the Fuerstenwalde school, a bell cuts through the hubbub of recess and signals the return to class.

Among the children flocking to their desks in a classroom with paper butterflies on the green walls are four Syrian children -- Yasmine, Zaid and two boys named Mohamed.

Their colourful pencil cases in front of them, the pupils, aged nine to 11, listen intently to the lesson.

"What is this man doing?" asks a teaching assistant at a cinema workshop as the class watches a video.

Mohamed, wearing sweatpants, raises his hand and says eagerly in his newly-acquired language: "He is opening the door."

Standing beside the Syrian pupils is Khabbaz, ready to help out in those moments when the four youngsters need some extra help.

Yasmine, with long brown braids that fall down her back, turns to the young woman and whispers a question in Arabic.

"There are words they don't understand yet, or sometimes the teacher speaks too quickly," says Khabbaz.

School principal Ines Tesch explains that the refugee children "still struggle with the specialised language of biology or physics".

"When there's no other way, the children speak their mother tongue," says Tesch.

It means precious support for the children who, aside from having to find their way in an unknown country, carry the memories of war, upheaval and exodus.