DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
Main actors involved.
Social assistant, student.
When, where and how the story took place.
General, technical and vocational school in the Namur area. School year 2012-2013.
The experience takes place in a class of 2nd “differentiated” year (for students who failed the primary school certificate).
A 15 year old student arrives at school in January 2013. She arrived in Belgium on the 10th of September 2012. She is Congolese. She lives in a centre for unaccompanied underage immigrants. She is from a “bridging class” (in French: “classe passerelle”, transitional step for immigrant students who have no diploma equivalence).
She is received by the social assistant. The girl withdraws into herself, she curtails the interview, she does not want to talk about her family. She speaks French, but she has reading difficulties. The social assistant sets up a monitoring in French.
After only four days at school, the social assistant notices problems of violence in class. The girl slaps the other students, she is insolent and arrogant, she addresses inappropriate comments to students and teachers.
She explains that she dislikes school and wants to join her friends in another school, although she had chosen this school. She will only talk to her lawyer or her guardian.
She is called by the “citizenship council” (“conseil de citoyenneté“: body with equal number of students and teachers) set up by the school to solve problems of violence. The objective of this device is to act preventively against violence by involving students directly. The student at fault is not stigmatised. The sanction is before all a tool to take responsibility, to progress individually. (see details in the story school bullying – students)
The girl arrives with the same closed attitude, but she accepts the sanction and reparation she is imposed.
Early February, the social assistant contacts the centre for immigrants where the girl lives. She realises the girl is aggressive there too. A meeting is organised with the manager of the centre in the girl’s presence, in order to clarify the situation and find solutions to her difficulties.
At the centre, she will, among other, benefit from physiotherapy sessions to remove some muscle knots. There seems to be something unclear going on in her family she refuses to talk about, but from which she clearly suffers.
At school, she will be monitored by the social assistant and reference educator.
Since then, nothing else has come up! The young girl is smiling and polite, she is no longer aggressive and will finish the year in the school.
Late May, the school is invited at the class council of the “bridging class”. It will decide the year in which the girl can enrol next year. She wishes to be in third vocational (3P), sales section.
Reasons why the story can be considered successful.
• The girl could express her difficulties (even though she keeps her family situation secret)
• She is appeased
• She plans to finish the year in the school (and maybe continue there)
Starting point of the student.
This young girl arrived in Belgium “one day, just like this”. Nothing is known about her! She is thought to come from France. She is not a political refugee, she has not come through family reunification.
Since she arrived, she has withdrawn into herself and has refused to talk about her family. Her behaviour is aggressive. She is suffering.
Possible explanations of the success
The school thinks her change of attitude is due to various factors:
• The role played by the “citizenship council” (no stigmatisation of the student at fault)
• Regular monitoring by the reference educator
• The interview between the social assistant and the manager of the centre, in which the girl participated. They were both attentive to the student. They emphasized the positive aspects, they helped her develop a project (getting in 3P – sales)
• The physiotherapy sessions helped her a lot
However, the headmistress points out the difficulty to work “differentiation” with teachers. For these “working with one student = disengaging from the others”, “too little time is dedicated to students who do not demand it when much energy is spent with students in difficulty.”
Interaction between the different actors involved
The social assistant fully committed to encourage the student’s success.
The collaboration between the actors was perfect: school, centre for immigrants, teachers of the “bridging class”, student.
Action of educational policy
This experience falls within the project “DASPA” (welcoming and schooling device for immigrant students) developed by the Minister of Education since the school year 2012-2013.
Some schools welcome a great number of students from other countries. Those students arrive with no school background and without knowing the French language in a school system they do not know. They need specific support to ensure, like other students, chances of development through education.
The “DASPA” is an intermediary schooling step of limited extent before schooling in an ordinary class.
Concretely, immigrant students are welcomed in “bridging classes” (or another option), for a period of one week to one year (that can be extended up to six months).
During this period, they are specifically supervised in order to adapt to and integrate in the Belgian socio-cultural and school system.
The device focusses on intensive learning of the French language for those who have insufficient command of it, as well as adapted catching up (history, geography, mathematics, sciences), so that the student can join the appropriate level as soon as possible.
Transferability potential of the experience
In this school, no one is left alone. The headmistress’ policy is non-expulsion, whatever the teachers’ reluctances. The social assistant fully commits (often beyond her timetable) to solve the problems of students in difficulty, to foster success.