“What are you going to do for us?”

On 4th and 5th of November, OBESSU took part in the Peer Learning Activity in Barcelona, in the framework of the project SIRIUS 2.0: as a policy network on migrant education, this project brings together key stakeholders all around Europe involved in inclusion, solidarity, and education. Participating in this project, OBESSU meets policymakers, researchers, practitioners, activists, students and teachers, and representatives of migrant communities. We decided to share the fundamental aim of the project: developing an advocacy action and a field cooperative research, with an in-depth study of the formal and non-formal experiences of solidarity and inclusion of students and youngsters with migrant backgrounds.

The recently issued Sirius Watch Report 2020 stated that “the lack of a holistic and interconnected approach to inclusive education, which considers how elements such as inclusive pedagogies, teacher training, linguistically and culturally sensitive school climate should be linked together to facilitate inclusion”. “School segregation - Sirius scholars wrote - remains a challenge in practically all countries in Europe, as it is often linked to residential and societal segregation. Policies combating segregation remain ineffective due to the lack of comprehensive strategies addressing residential segregation”: the lack of these strategies and the interest, as a dissemination partner, to get to know these stories closely, led us to share the rich experience of Barcelona. The #BarcelonaPLA, led by prof. Miguel Angel Essomba (Autonomous University of Barcelona) as a director of the research team Equipe de Recerca en Diversitat i Inclusio’, gathered a lively group of scholars (University of Lapland, RISBO Erasmus University) and CSOs activists of the dissemination partners of the project (such as the Migration Policy Group, the European Parents’ Association, Don Bosco International, Salesiani per il Sociale, the Arctic Immigrant Association, the Network of Education Policy Centers). Ettore, our Research and Policy Assistant, attended the PLA on behalf of the OBESSU Secretariat, sharing our points of view on the various topics discussed and receiving a series of inputs that we will elaborate in the next steps.

Why did we participate in PLA?

As reported in the quoted Sirius Watch Report 2020, “the COVID-19 crisis showed that the twin transition and digital advancements in particular, can only be successful if it is inclusive and no one is left behind. [..] The negative consequences of the pandemic have been and are certainly felt disproportionally by learners from vulnerable backgrounds, including migrants”. Also, in our research Through School Students’ Eyes, we wrote: “In EU countries such as Greece, Spain and France, between 45 per cent and 55 per cent of children of migrants live in relative poverty, twice the rate of poverty among children born to non-migrant parents. Refugee children and children seeking asylum are often detained or confined to designated structures where their right to education is, de facto, violated. According to UNICEF, only 10 Member States explicitly recognise the right of undocumented children to basic education. An additional five states explicitly exclude them from free schooling (UNCFRO, 2016). This is a violation of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right and the Convention against Discrimination in Education. In addition, it is in direct contradiction of the first principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights, according to which ‘Everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning in order to maintain and acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in society and manage successfully transitions in the labour market’. If not addressed, the exclusion of refugee children and children seeking asylum from the education system will have long term consequences on the fabric of our societies perpetuating racialized, generational inequalities comparable to those of ex-apartheid states.”

No one must be left behind: OBESSU is committed with its policy and advocacy activities at the EU and national level to heal the wounds caused by the pandemic to school systems, which often were already lacking funding, services and rights. We were there to learn and spread resilience and resistance practices in our network, for today and for tomorrow. 

Who did we meet?

Not just names, associations, and schools, but bodies, stories, thoughts, feelings, emotions. We met the teachers and the students of the Institute Consell de Cent in El Raval neighborhood: a secondary school in which students with a migrant background are 93% of the school population. In our informal talks with the students, we discovered their passions, their strengths, their desire to continue studies or work, contributing to the society in which their families have entered with difficulty. We met restaurants that are also social projects, such as the Norai Raval and Mescladis: structured and paid training at work, social recognition are also indispensable elements in an inclusive education to food to have dignity as young people. We met the Prometheus project, part of the non-formal education association AEI Raval, devoted to the empowerment of youngsters with migrant background to get access to higher education, event through post-school orientation, support in the study and in finding scholarships, but particularly in mental well-being and in orientation to social welfare. We deepen the young migrants’ school pathways in Catalunya with PhD Dr Anna Tarrés and the current legal status of unaccompanied migrant minors in Spain with the lawyer David Moya. We interviewed the managers of Superacció, an association for unaccompanied migrant minors: an experience in which the artistic expression of the body, yoga, and collective sporting are aimed at recovering the social dignity, the mental and physical well-being of young people who fled from North African Countries or who slept on the streets of Spain. Heartbreaking stories in which we found lights of hope. One of these young new friends asked us, directly: What are you going to do for us? This is the point.

OBESSU doesn’t participate in all the activities, even as a dissemination partner, for the fleeting joy of a pic. Ok, we take many, but the point is another. :) We are a network in which we know how to combine activism, passion, joy and revolution: precisely for this reason it is important to transmit this story to our Members, to recalibrate our policy and advocacy strategies, to throw our hearts into projects of formal and non-formal inclusion, in and out of schools. Here is our dissemination strategy within the Sirius network, in which we continue to take part for the future: heal the wounds of the present intersecting inequalities with projects that include everyone, which call the responsibilities of local, national and EU authorities. 

So that education could be not only a social responsibility, but also a right for everyone.


Written by Ettore Bucci