TITLE OF THE SUCCESS STORY
Out of Africa
COUNTRY WHERE IT TOOK PLACE
AUTHOR OF THE SUCCESS STORY
High Secondary School
Integration of immigrants students
DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
The young student arrived from Guinea in a small professional high secondary school full of enthusiasm and a sense of adventure. He had left his family behind and only met a couple of boys like himself. He immediately sensed that this was a foreign country: he did not like the food, he did not understand the way people spoke and he had not expected the racism he became a victim of. The climate was too cold and he was bullied by other students who called him ‘black’. The first school year was dramatic; he felt really put down and nothing and nobody changed the way he felt and was treated. There were other black students at school, male and female, but no one was treatly as badly as he was and his relations were poor. He felt difficulty in adjusting to such a different environment although he valued the learning opportunity very much.
Things started to change when several workshops were done in school targeted at racism. His talk to teachers and his concentrating on his work also helped him overcome his victim role. He was interviewed for a school magazine project and asked to tell his story; to explain his values about several aspects of the culture he grew in, namely who cooks and what is cooked, the difference between the roles of men and of women in his country, what he missed most and why and what he valued most in the new country. He started to realize that his culture was also valued and that there were other ways of thinking besides his own. He stressed how he liked the peaceful and quiet the surrounding area to the school, far away from the busy city centres of big towns he dreaded so much and was able to tell his story as someone who had been bullied and who had been a victim of racist attitutes and thus regain confidence in himself, in his skills and beliefs.
The possible explanation of the success of this story lies in the overall school project of integrating the several students coming from African Portuguese-speaking countries. The headmaster and teachers were aware that this student was bullied and that he was also a victim of racism and they generated strategies to overcome racism, such as the workshop and the encouragement given to students to describe everybody else’s cultural feelings in a school magazine to be shared by all.
From the point of view of the student, he was successful in overcoming his initial strangeness, despair and sense of victimhood. After the first year he gradually adjusted to the place and learnt to live in it.
It is unclear, from the student’s story how he did this exactly, but the fact that he can tell about himself that he had been bullied acknowledges that he isn’t bullied anymore and that he is self-confident.
The transferability potential of this story lies in calling the attention of teachers and head teachers to forms of aggressive racism and subtle racism that are quite common among young Portuguese against African people. It also gives examples of projects that may be introduced to overcome racist attitudes and behaviours, such as a workshop on racism directed at the whole school community to sensitize individuals of their latent racism, and a school magazine project that invites minority students to tell about their lives and cultures in other places and thus render their alternative ways of living visible.