In the midst of the media attention surrounding the arrival of large number of asylum-seekers to Europe since the beginning of 2015, it is time to shift our focus towards finding durable solutions to integrate the newly arrived into the host societies, along with the millions of migrants and refugees who are already living on European soil. Based on data from Eurostat from early 2016, 52.8 million people were born outside of the EU Member State they currently reside in, representing approximately 10% of the EU-28 population. Migration has had a significant impact on the countries in Europe and among others it has brought important changes in the make-up of the composition of school-age children.

Many schools in larger cities within Europe have half or more of their students with migrant background. In general they are in a very difficult and disadvantaged situation in comparison to their native peers. Often they attend schools where – due to the high number of students with migrant background – the expectation of the teachers towards them is lower. This has a negative effect on their performance, self-esteem, and result in a higher drop-out rate and school failure among migrant children and youth. In the long run this can hinder their social and economic inclusion, which might have unforeseen consequences.

Education is a key instrument of integration. This is one of the main reasons why the school environment and the school life can have a great influence on the future of young learners with migrant background. Several actors play an important role in their successful integration and educational development. First, teachers and tutors are at the forefront of the learning process. Second, family members’, parents’ attitude towards and active involvement with school has an impact. Last but not least, fellow students have a substantial role in making migrant pupils feel welcome and personally connected to the school community. Developing stronger ties to the school and to their peers is a major step towards the successful integration of those refugee and migrant children who do not yet feel connected.

OBESSU, in order to encourage building bridges between migrant children and their peers in secondary schools, decided to launch the project “Seeds for Integration”. The main idea is to provide small, medium and large seed-grants to secondary school student unions, or in case there is no student council in the school, to independent groups representing the school’s students, to come up with creative initiatives along the topic of the educational inclusion of migrant and refugee children.

On a local level, secondary school student groups can apply for a small scale grant of maximum 500 Euros. On a regional level, project teams composed of students from different secondary schools or Regional School Student Unions can apply for a medium scale grant of maximum 1000 Euros. On a national level, only OBESSU Member, Candidate and Affiliate Organisations can apply for a large scale grant of maximum 2500 Euros.

The “Call for Initiatives” has been launched on the 1st of September and the application deadline is the 5th of October 2016. For more information on the project or the application procedure, consult the following website: www.seedsforintegration.org. In case you have any questions or comments you can contact Eszter, the Programme Coordinator, on the following email address: seeds@obessu.org.

“Seeds for Integration” is a great opportunity for secondary school students to design and implement an initiative fully funded by OBESSU. Plant a seed for a better future and follow the developments on twitter #seeds4integration!