The Vakeripen project (Roma inclusion in education: fostering constructive attitudes and good practices in the Barcelona area) was officially concluded on June 15, 2018, when GRITIM-UPF hosted the final conference in the Auditorium of the Pompeu Fabra University. Besides the partners Fundació Privada Pere Closa and Rromane Siklovne, the associate partner, the Office for non-discrimination (Ajuntament de Barcelona), other actors from the Barcelona City Council and the Roma associations FAGiC and Lacho Bají Calí, we had the pleasure to welcome about 70 members of the Roma families who participated in the project as well as the school directors Marta del Campo from Institut-Escola Sant Adrià, Domi Viñas from Institut-Escola El Til·ler (Bon Pastor) and Teresa Llobet from El Gornal school, together with other participating school staff.
This event was an opportunity to present the results to the project participants, engage in dialogue with them and show our gratitude for their dedication during these past 18 months. All participants agreed on the principal message of the event, that all of us, as researchers, school staff, Roma families and local authorities share the objective of improving the school situation of Roma children and that mutual respect, understanding and communication between schools and families are essential to achieve this. This was in line with the message transmitted by one of the invited speakers, Lola López, Commissioner of immigration, interculturalism and diversity at the City Council of Barcelona, who also emphasized the urgency in finally coming to an end with centuries of exclusion and discrimination of the Roma. After the presentation we enjoyed a live flamenco concert by Ley de Vida, and then everyone was invited to share the tables and continue the conversations during a festive dinner with paella and coca in the garden of the university, El Jardí de les Aigües.
From January 2017-June 2018, we conducted numerous activities with Roma families and school staff in the neighborhoods of Sant Roc, La Mina, Bon Pastor and El Gornal. These activities included teacher training and awareness-raising programs designed and implemented by our partners Fundació Privada Pere Closa and Rromane Siklovne (in collaboration with Ensenyament, the Catalan department of education), dialogue meetings and workshops during which the researchers from GRITIM-UPF performed participant observations, and in-depth interviews with Roma families, school staff and intermediary actors in these neighborhoods.
The final project report will be published in August, 2018. Below follows a summary of the project dissemination and the actions implemented between January 2017-June 2018.
INSTITUTIONAL PROJECT ACTIVITIES
Workshop at the Office for Non-discrimination (OND) of Barcelona
GRITIM-UPF organized a half-day meeting with the Office for Non-discrimination, represented by its director Albert Fages and their team of lawyers, Roma representatives from the neighborhoods of El Gornal, La Mina and Bon Pastor; some of them as mothers or fathers, others representing local Roma associations; our project partners Pere Closa and Rromane Siklovne, and Silvia Serra, secretary of the Roma advisory board of the Barcelona city council.
The emphasis was placed on the most urgent topic from the Roma representatives' point of view, based on the daily experiences of many of them and the Roma population in these neighborhoods in general: how to overcome the broad gap between anti-discrimination laws and official discourses on tolerance and inclusion, and everyday discriminatory and racist practices in supermarkets, restaurants, access to jobs and elsewhere.
Participation in the EUROCITIES Roma inclusion working group meeting
The PI of the project, Zenia Hellgren, presented a summary of the preliminary conclusions at this meeting organized by the City Council (Ajuntament) of Barcelona on May 15th. See the news here.
The International Roma Day
On April 6th, 2018, the teams from GRITIM-UPF and Rromane Siklovne participated in the organization of the international Roma day in El Gornal, together with the local Roma association Lacho Bají Calí, which is a central collaborator in the implementation of the project. As the 8th of April is on a Sunday this year, the festivities took place on the Friday so that the children and teachers from the Gornal school (which is the school participating in the project) could participate.
Local Roma families in El Gornal, Mercedes Gomez Cortes from Lacho Bají Calí, Zenia Hellgren and Lorenzo Gabrielli from GRITIM-UPF, and Lola Lopez, commissioner of Migration, Interculturalism and Diversity at the Barcelona City Council.
Also the City council of Barcelona was present, represented by Lola Lopez who is the commissioner of Migration, Interculturalism and Diversity. The celebration was an excellent opportunity to discuss central questions related to Roma inclusion with her, as the need for the ethnic majority society to be self-critical and not aim at less than full equality of opportunities, and outcomes.
The celebration was also an opportunity for both non-Roma and Roma families, teachers and representatives of different associations and institutions to enjoy expressions of Roma culture. The Roma participants in our project have overall requested more presence of Roma culture in schools, and this is something that we will recommend as a general measure in revising how the Roma are represented in the educational system. In the Gornal neighborhood, the participating Roma members enjoy the classes in romaní language that we included as part of the workshops, and that will be extended during the spring of 2018 given their popularity.
Roundtable with scholars, policy-makers and Roma associations
On November 29th, 2017: GRITIM-UPF organized a roundtable where local scholars, policy-makers and representatives of Roma associations discussed the role that schools play for Roma inclusion, what are the main challenges and what could be improved.
Research team training on Roma culture and the school situation of Roma children in the target neighborhoods
On March 10th, 2017, the GRITIM-UPF researchers Zenia Hellgren, Lorenzo Gabrielli and Evren Yalaz attended a full day of training and awareness-raising organized by the partner organizations in the headquarters of Pere Closa in Badalona. It was a fruitful occasion for learning and reflection, and exchange of thoughts around the challenges and opportunities involved in the project. Pedro Casermeiro from Rromane Siklovne shared a detailed account on the history and present situation of the Roma in Spain, as well as on the realities and prejudice regarding the cultural identity and way of life of the Roma that will influence on the execution of the project. Central aspects here are the role of girls within the Roma communities, the relationship between the schools and the Roma families, and the professional opportunities for Roma in the majority society.
During the meeting, we also discussed the key concepts of the project: expectations and representation. The notion of expectations here involves both the expectations of the school staff on Roma pupils, and the expectations of the Roma families on their children. Working actively to challenge low expectations will be a central task throughout the meetings and workshops with school staff and Roma families. Representation refers mainly to how Roma culture is represented by the majority society and how this is perceived by Roma pupils and families in their relations with the school. It also involves one of the project tasks: to select representatives of the Roma communities who will engage in dialogues on anti-discrimination with the city council of Barcelona during the fall of 2017.
Pedro Casermeiro explains the cultural legacy and specificities of the Roma communities in Spain, and the multiple factors influencing on the school situation of Roma children.
The training session was an opportunity for intercultural dialogue and reflection among the members of the project team, exchanging thoughts on truths and prejudice about Roma and non-Roma.
MAIN PROJECT ACTIVITIES: WORKSHOPS, DIALOGUE SESSIONS AND TEACHER TRAINING
Dialogue meetings on education and inclusion with Roma mothers in La Mina, April-June 2018
During two months, we organized one or two weekly dialogue meetings together with our partner organization Pere Closa and Roma mothers from the neighborhood La Mina with children in the local schools there. The conversations were focused on the relationship with the school, the expectations for the education of their children and for the future in general, and also their experiences in relation to the majority society in general concerning inclusion/exclusion and discrimination. These activities were much appreciated by the mothers, who felt that they got a chance to express with words thoughts and sentiments that they already had. At the last session, they expressed their will to continue with this kind of activities if possible. Parallel to the conversations, which were registered through research notes by the GRITIM team, we also performed in-depth interviews with the participating mothers.
Teacher training in Sant Roc, La Mina and El Gornal
Between October 2017-May 2018, Pere Closa organized a series of training and awareness-raising sessions for school staff in the neighborhoods of Sant Roc and La Mina within the framework of our project. These two neighborhoods both have a high proportion of Roma population and are typically considered among the most marginal housing areas in the region.
Emphasis for the training was placed on how to understand, debate and prevent premature emancipation, absenteeism and early school abandonment among Roma pupils. A central topic that emerged during the first sessions was the importance of being aware of differences between attributing certain practices to "Roma culture" understood as ethnically specific, or viewing these practices as related to the "culture" of poverty and marginalization. For instance, teachers may interpret certain behaviors (as not showing up on time, making noise, and "behaving badly" in general) as "typically Roma" and thereby risk reinforcing stereotypes, when these behaviors rather ought to be interpreted as symptoms of the socio-economically marginalized situation that many of these families live in.
Miguel Ángel Franconetti from Pere Closa discusses the challenges of school failure and prejudice with teachers from different schools in the Sant Roc neighborhood.
Simultaneously, Rromane Siklovne is in charge of teacher training in El Gornal, upon petition by the Catalan department of Education (Ensenyament). Here, emphasis lies on transmitting the importance of emphasizing positive features of Roma culture and that teachers participate in empowering a culture that has for long been strongly devalued, making Roma children feel that their cultural identity is something to be proud of and not an impediment for achievement. This aspect is also included in the training provided by Pere Closa.
Workshops and meetings with Roma families and school staff in El Gornal, October 2017-May 2018
During the fall and spring semesters, we are organizing a series of meetings and workshops in El Gornal together with Pedro Casermeiro/Rromane Siklovne and the local Roma association Lacho Bají Calí. On the one hand, we meet with Roma families who have their children in the Gornal school, to discuss their needs and concerns and possible actions to take in collaboration with the school. These meetings also include a session of encounters where Rromane Siklovne talk to the families about the history, language and cultural legacy of the Roma people, which many of them where not familiar with.
Pedro Casermeiro talking about Roma history with families in the El Gornal school.
On the other hand, we simultaneously meet with school staff and discuss possible actions to increase the inclusion of the families. Based on these meetings we are exploring the possibilities for parents who express the wish to participate in school activities as lunch room monitors and support staff during the break in the school yard (two areas described as conflictive by the parents), for instance by getting publically financed training sessions for parents. We are also conducting in-depth interviews with Roma mothers and fathers, and school staff, in El Gornal.
Pedro Casermeiro talks to children in 5th grade about possible futures and "typical Roma professions."
Rromane Siklovne and Lacho Bají Calí are also organizing a series of basketry workshops, where children from 5th and 6th grade, Roma parents and teachers participate. The purpose is both to bring local Roma culture into the school - basket-making, mainly performed by Roma women, was a main source of income for the Roma community in this neighborhood for decades, and to discuss the current professional outlooks for young Roma and the importance of education in order to adjust to the current labor market, in which traditional Roma professions as basketry and sales at the market places are ever less sustainable. In this context there is also space to discuss the idea of "typical Roma professions" as such, and suggest that the children can do anything they want to.
Teachers, parents, Roma and non-Roma children from the El Gornal school enjoy trying traditional basketry.
Workshops and dialogue meetings with Roma families in Bon Pastor and Sant Roc, May-July, 2017.
In Sant Roc, a group of Roma mothers and fathers met twice per week during May and June in the center of the Roma association in Badalona, La Casa de Shere Rom. During these sessions, moderated by Miguel Ángel from Pere Closa, several key topics as education and the relation with the children's school, expectations for the future, premature emancipation, gender roles and discrimination were discussed with active participation by the parents. Meanwhile, the GRITIM staff performed observations (taking notes) and individual in-depth interviews with mothers and fathers in a separate room.
The workshops and meetings in Bon Pastor, organized by Rromane Siklovne, so far were based on the idea to bring the school closer to the Roma families in order to prepare for a better communication. These activities were adapted to suit a situation in which many of these families are not used to entering the school at all and may find this intimidating. The meetings will continue during the fall and then focus more explicitly on dialogue and communication. Simultaneously, we have been conducting in-depth interviews with school staff and families in the area.
The workshop sessions in Bon Pastor were closed with a football game between Roma parents and children and school staff - a greatly appreciated event with a large audience that ended with snacks and chats in the school yard of Escola El Til·ler (earlier Bernat de Boïl).
Workshop where parents, children and school staff met to build Flamenco boxes and talk about education, Escola El Til·ler (earlier Bernat de Boïl), Bon Pastor. For several of these families it was the first time they participated in an activity in the school, together with their children.
IT training attended by Roma mothers who learnt basic tasks as to set up an e-mail account together with their children.