Main actors involved
University students, “mentors”, secondary school students.
When, where and how the story took place
The experience takes place in Brussels in a secondary school with many difficulties: large classes, underprivileged students including many immigrants, school dropout, violence …
In this school, many asks help from the headmaster, because they are not able to help their children study the subjects but want to educate them as well as possible.
To meet those requests, the headmaster calls to the mentoring organised by the non-profit organisation Schola ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles): http://www.schola-ulb.be/programme-tutorat/
. It started around fifteen years ago and it goes, because the results are positive!
The aim of mentoring is to: “succeed together”. ULB students give remedial classes to students with difficulties. During the year, but also during the holidays, those students dedicate part of their time to assist 3 to 8 student groups.
It is free of charge and it is done in the school so that everyone can participate. It is not compulsory, students sign in on their own volition.
Mentoring sessions last around two hours and take place everyday after the courses. The mentors help students catching up in all the subjects: maths, French … They work together with the teachers, for a targeted work that reassures students.
Mentoring brings students help in knowledge, know-how and social skills. The mentors reconcile students with school and give them confidence. They have a different perspective on teacher-student relations, which can be difficult. They inform and ease students’ transition to higher education.
“Students who are not Belgian tend to belittle themselves. They don’t think they can succeed in higher studies. I am the proof that it is possible”.
“Those students have some potential but they lack confidence. The greatest part of my job is to give them confidence. Being a mentor is a way to earn some money but it is most of all a way to make oneself useful and to create great contacts with students”.
Reasons why the story can be considered a success.
• Positive effect on school results: students with mentoring succeed better.
“Mentoring helps us understand things that we haven’t understood in class. Since I started coming, I feel a big improvement. I will probably come back next year.”
• Students look to higher studies.
• Collateral effects: the general environment at school has improved a lot and violence has ceased.
• The RTBF (Radio Télévision Belge Francophone) news broadcast of the 16th of March 2007 dedicated a report to this successful experience:
Starting point of the student.
Most students come from underprivileged immigrant background. Their parents are not able to help them with the subjects because they speak little French or their education level is too low or they cannot pay for private lessons.
The family situation fosters dropping out.