Schools for All – Inclusion of Refugees in Schools
You have reached the 31 Basic Activities for the inclusion of refugee children in schools. You have already taken the first step to making your school inclusive. You are interested, you are curious, you care. So, let’s get started. The importance of inclusion is self-evident for every person who cares. All children have a right to learn, which means both access to school and success in it. Access is legally guaranteed. Success, however, requires decisions, methods and steps. These are described here, as designed and implemented in the “Schools for All” project.
The European Wergeland Centre project “Schools for All – Integration of refugee children in Greek schools” is based on the applied social pedagogy of approaching the school as a whole, with the aim of transforming it in order to develop environments that are inclusive for students with refugee backgrounds.
During the three years of the project, an intervention and training plan were implemented with activities and actions to support this inclusiveness at school. As the training team we created materials for activities aimed at raising awareness, preparation, planning, reception and finally inclusion of refugee children in Greek schools. The full body of these activities with their individual actions make up the “31 Basic Activities”, which in turn form part of the documentation and presentation of the project’s overall experience.
For the needs of the operation of “Schools for All” we prepared 40 trainers. They worked on an annual basis with 64 high schools across Greece, since their Teacher’s Council decided to work to create a more inclusive environment for students with refugee background.
All schools received specialist training, formed teams to carry out the project, and developed an Action Plan. They worked on inclusion in lessons and in school governance, involving both parents and agencies to support their actions.
The manual, therefore, contains suggestions and actions that have been put into practice during the project at a a range of schools. It also contains a brief necessary theoretical foundation of the philosophy involved.
In the “Schools for All” project we applied educational tools from the Council of Europe and the European Wergeland Centre, organizations that have worked for many years on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In cooperation with participating schools, we also created a set of our own new educational tools.
As early as 1948, Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”
The European Convention on Human Rights, in Protocol 1 of Article 2, notes: No person shall be denied the right to education.
The Council of Europe, in its more than 70 years of experience, has formulated and implemented a model of education in democratic citizenship and human rights, based on three directions:
- Education should be value-oriented
The “Schools for All” program is based on the right of children to have equal learning opportunities regardless of their background. An inclusive school is one that is not only aware of the specific characteristics of its students without exceptions, but also fosters the right to diversity. It serves the right to education by creating a safe learning environment for all.
- The school should offer knowledge and cultivate skills and attitudes for a democratic culture
Democracy is taught in school and the laws and regulations governing the school’s operation are democratic in theory. But democracy often remains an official concept, its values seemingly out of reach.
‘‘31 Basic Activities’’ is a collection of cards, rather than a book. This option makes it easier to select and rearrange the materials to suit the character and needs of their own school.
There are two types of cards:
- Text cards, which provide a basic theoretical founda- tion necessary for the use of the educational tools, and
- Activity cards, the choice of which shapes the path each school decides to follow in order to make its educational community more inclusive.
Each card includes fields to facilitate its use
Summarizes the content of the activity in a sentence or underlines a main point.
Indicative to help with planning. The time noted is the bare minimum, which can be increased if parts of the activity are extended (e.g. more time for discussion, or for wider engagement with a particular step of the activity).
An explanation of the topic, purpose and (in some cases), how the activity is to be carried out. The description facilitates the selection and rearrangement of activities in the school’s training program.
What the activity aims to achieve for those who participate in it, in relation to facilitating inclusion.
Expected Learning Outcomes:
What the participants will learn and achieve through the activity.
Competences for democratic culture:
The ‘‘Schools for All” program has implemented the Council of Europe’s ‘‘Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture”. According to this model, with each activity the school can decide to foster specific values, attitudes, skills and knowledge, chosen from among those that the model describes as ‘‘Competences for democratic culture”. The behavioral indicators that accompany each competence help to determine the extent to which the school is achieving the cultivation of that skill through each activity; to assess its progress at any given time, and to evaluate its implementation along the way and at the end. The indicators are numbered in order to be easily traceable. They are also labeled as Basic (B), Intermediate (I) or Advanced (A) so that the school can identify the level of proficiency targeted.
Implementation instructions addressed to those who will take responsibility for the activity. Each person responsible can then adapt the steps to the specific needs of their school.
Feedback – assessment – evaluation:
The necessary last step for each activity. Here, those involved have the opportunity to reflect on their experience and share thoughts and feelings for the present and the future.
Material and sources:
A list of what is needed both for the theoretical foundation of the content and aims of the activity, as well as for its practical implementation.
In the ‘‘31 Basic Activities”, the content follows a temporal logic, which at the same time obeys a double internal categorisation. This makes it possible to create different paths, suitable for different schools and their circumstances.
At the beginning one finds actions that the school can take BEFORE the new students arrive. These are followed by actions that can be decided. DURING the time students are becoming members of the school community. Finally, there are activities AFTER the initial integration is completed, and the children percieve the school as their school.
Each of these time categories, obeys a certain logic regarding the purpose of the activities:
Some activities raise AWARENESS of the school community about the refugee condition and the circumstances of the new students. Others focus on the PREPARATION of the school to welcome them inclusively. The remaining activities address the continued IMPLEMENTATION of inclusion in the school.
Finally, following the model of the whole school approach, each activity relates to one of the three areas that constitute the school:
Teaching and learning
School governance and school culture, cooperation with the community.
All categories are marked on each activity card.
How to use the ‘‘31 Basic Activities’’
The ‘‘31 Basic Activities’’ include workshops, i.e. a set of combined activities as well as shorter activities on a topic. The material is structured in the following format, to meet the needs of the school, depending on the stage of its relationship with the new students.
If the inclusion of children with refugee background is a new need for the school, it can follow the sequence of activities as listed in the ‘‘31 Basic Activities’’.
However, before proceeding with the implementation of activities, it is necessary to raise awareness among all members of the school community about what a refugee is, why they are in the country, what their particular characteristics are, what their special pedagogical and psychosocial needs are, and in what conditions they live.
It is then necessary to integrate this awareness into the functioning of the school, to understand the interventions that need to be made, to reflect on the
perceptions of children and adults, as well as the degree of preparedness of the school and to build on the exploration of the democratic and inclusive climate already mastered. In this preparation, creating an appropriate atmosphere is auxiliary.
Part of the preparation is using the educational tools of the Competences for Democratic Culture. The butterfly, the elements that make the school democratic and the effort to activate every member of the school community make the preparation realistic.
A sensitized and prepared school can proceed with activities that help all its members to practice inclusion in the daily functioning of the school, even before the new students arrive. The implementation suggestions provide ideas and chart a basic course.
If the school is already welcoming new students, it needs to quickly organize their inclusion by putting in place basic functions that will facilitate the relationship between the existing and new students in a safe way. Such operations include agreeing on the function of each group, becoming aware of the importance of rights and responsibilities, coordinating the cooperation of all teachers in the school through an action plan, and creating a mentor institution for new students and their parents.
Once the first necessary actions have been taken, it is time for the school to move on to actions that help all children to feel welcome and equal. These include, for instance, ensuring that school signage and school rules are equally accessible and understandable in all the children’s languages, active participation of students in common activities, and socializing through the use of common elements such as play.
If the school starts from this point, it is advisable to use the awareness-raising activities. Those included in the previous phase (BEFORE) are recommended.
Even if the refugee students are already attending the school for some time, they still face the particular needs of their refugee experience and are still living unintentionally in a foreign place. The activities proposed here address the need to deepen the awareness of the first part (BEFORE). We might regard it as a booster vaccine.
Now familiar with its new students, the school proceeds to explore the positions and opinions of its members on diversity, to practice approaching controversial issues, and to remember that every child has dreams for the future.
At this stage, some actions are proposed for inside and outside the classrom, as a reminder that inclusion is not a state, but a living process that needs care and mobility.
The above description does not exhaust the possibilities of using the ‘‘31 Basic Activities» handbook. It is rather a suggested way forward.