DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
Main actors involved
The social assistant, the student, her mother.
When, where and how the story took place
General, technical and vocational school in the Namur area. School year 2012-2013.
The story takes place in a third vocational class (3P), hairdressing section.
In October, the social assistant receives a 16-year-old girl, crying. She has already had many absences and wants to stop school.
She is dating a 25-year-old Turkish man who does drugs and has already beaten her. She stays with him because it has happened only once. The young man often encourages her to skip class. Her father, who she lives with, does not accept this man of foreign origin and is worried about his daughter.
The social assistant meets the father, who expresses his fears about that man. The mother refused to come because she is in conflict with the father.
The social assistant also contacts the Youth Aid Service – SAJ, which is already following the family but seems completely powerless.
Fortunately, at the level of school, the young girl likes hairdressing and is gifted. She is closely followed by the educator who checks her absences. October is the best moment to prevent early school leaving.
Early December, the young girl still wants to leave school. The father meets the social assistant again and informs her that his daughter is pregnant. The boyfriend has vanished; his daughter ends up alone with nothing to take on her child. He does not want her to keep it. He is in conflict with his daughter.
A long process starts then, made up of meetings and dialogues between the social assistant, the young girl, her mother and the external services that follow the family:
• The mother contacts the social assistant to tell her that she wants to keep the child. Afterwards, she calls her every day. She is Catholic, “she would like to keep the child but she has no money and thinks about her future“. Her speech is not clear. She is an unstable person, who is assisted.
• The social assistant meets the young girl who does not know what to do. She is an insolent girl, who does not listen to her father, who goes out much, who smokes cannabis, who is always late at school, who excludes herself. However, she has no trouble in class, where her behaviour is beyond reproach.
• The social assistant suggests medical advice and guides the girl to a specialised service.
• The young girl decides to keep the child. All the protagonists agree that she will live with her mother after childbirth. After childbirth, since the mother has little income and her flat is too small, the girl will go to a shelter for women with children.
Christmas exams getting closer, the social assistant gets things straight with the student. She asks her to be on time at school, to stop cannabis, to take the exams, which she will do successfully. She did not pass all her exams, but the report is decent and she has put order in her lessons by herself.
Since she has decided to keep the child, she has become responsible, “like she has found balance”. She aims to pass the year. She keeps going out but she comes back on time. She uses less and less cannabis. She has patched up with her mother (who she will eventually stay with after childbirth, in another flat).
For its part the school has committed to set up the organisation enabling her to take the exams in June or September.
Reasons why the story can be considered successful.
• The student really became responsible assuming her pregnancy. She is no longer on the defensive, insolent or aggressive.
• She has carried out a project (putting her lessons in order, arriving on time, taking the exams) to pass the year and pursue her studies.
Starting point of the student
Before enrolling at school, this student had started a training as hairdressing trainee (in a so-called “institute of alternating training”), but she did not like this form of education. She does not want to work yet, she wants to pursue her studies. For that matter, she is a good student.
At the personal level, her situation is complex: intrusive boyfriend, cannabis consumption, difficult family relationships, unwanted pregnancy.
At the school level, she is often absent and/or late. She is dropping out, dragged by her boyfriend. Her chances of success for the year are seriously jeopardised.
Socio-economic background of the family involved
Underprivileged family background. The parents are separated and in conflict. The mother is depressive and penniless, she is followed by a specialised service.
Possible explanations of the success
• The girl’s change of attitude when she accepted her pregnancy
• She is good at hairdressing and has good abilities at school
• She is supported by her friend she smokes cannabis with. This girl works correctly and has no failure
• Her relationships with her mother are normalised
• The boyfriend’s being away made the situation easier
• The social assistant has frequent contacts with the family and the educator follows the girl’s presences closely.
The school is positive about this situation. It is a success regarding reschooling, responsibility and family bonds (even with the father, who is kept informed of the situation). The school thinks the student will pass the year and continue in 4P.
Interaction between the different actors involved
In this school, no one is abandoned. The social assistant dedicated herself completely to solve this problem that goes beyond the school context.
The dialogue with the girl and her family as well as with the services that follow the family is permanent and careful monitoring of the girl is carried out by the reference educator.
Transferability potential of the experience
This problem is experienced in many other schools.
Generally, the schools set up a specific organisation of the lessons and exams to foster the pregnant student’s success.
At the personal, family and medical level, schools collaborate with specialised organisations they send young girls to.