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INTEGRATION OF MIGRANT/REFUGEE PUPILS INTO THE SERBIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM - STEPS AND OPERATING METHODS IN “BRANKO PEŠIĆ“ PRIMARY SCHOOL

18/10/2019
por Ljiljana Panjković
Idioma: EN
New political and economic circumstances in the world resulted in the increasing number of migrants in the Republic of Serbia. Most of them want to continue their journey to one of the West Europe countries, but they spend some time in our country. This opened the question of education of migrants/refugees/asylum seekers.

 

“Branko Pešić“ Primary School in Zemun deals with education of pupils and learners from vulnerable groups. The teachers have worked for many years with children from unsanitary settlements, street children - as they are called, and lately with many children and youth from the collective centre in Krnjača, which made them sensitized to adjusting the teaching process to the needs of these pupils. A lot of pupils from our school experienced asylum seeking in some of the Western Europe counties, and they also experienced deportation in accordance with the Readmission Agreement, which is another resource of our school. School teachers represented a significant resource for the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia, as they participated in the implementation of training sessions of other teachers who are not experienced in this field.

During the school year 2018/2019, the school was attended by about 250 pupils younger than 15, more than 110 migrant pupils and about 200 learners in the functional elementary education of adults.

During the school year 2016/2017, the organized process of inclusion of children and young migrants and asylum seekers into the Serbian education system was initiated.  

In December 2016, 22 pupils, unaccompanied young migrants/refugees were enrolled in “Branko Pešić“ Primary School. That group consisted of 19 boys from Afghanistan, two girls from Ghana and one girl from Cameroon. None of them spoke the language of the community and education, i.e. Serbian, and it was the first encounter with school for most of them.   

During the school years 2016/2017, 2017/2018 and 2018/2019, more than 200 of these young people attended our school. Some of them are here this year, too. All of them are older than 15, without parental care, residing in camps or reception centres in Belgrade, mostly in Krnjača camp. As the main idea is the inclusion, and not the integration of these young people in the education system, we faced the issue of how and in what way to include the learners who do not speak Serbian into the regular teaching process. The manner in which we included the learners from a particularly vulnerable group of young people is presented in our paper.

Inclusion of migrant pupils:

1.           Meets the legal obligation of inclusion of migrant pupils into the Serbian education system (Serbian Constitution, the Law on the Basis of the Education System, the Law on Asylum, the Law on Discrimination Prohibition) and emphasizes the credibility of an institution (school);

2.           Enables the right to education, socializing, purposeful planning of time (both during lectures and leisure time, and inclusion into extracurricular activities);

3.           Ensures personal safety and protection at school, where the unaccompanied learner is not exposed to the risk of being “on the street” and being imposed someone else's will;

4.           Enables re-socialization and integration into the new community, creates the feeling of belonging and respect;

5.           Suppresses discrimination and offers techniques for overcoming of conflicts, develops democratic spirit and creates the feeling of understanding and tolerance.

 

The general objective of the inclusion of migrant pupils is to develop general and inter-subject competences in accordance with their own capacities through achieving the general standards of the eight-year primary education.

The specific objectives are the following:

  • Development of ability of independent creation and management of the learning process where everyone individually selects the content, identifies and separates the essential from the irrelevant by emphasizing the idea and the core of the content.
  • Adoption of different forms of communication in the education context where the non-verbal communication would be overcome with the use of the acquired knowledge of Serbian and application of different means of communication.
  • Collection, assessment and use of data and information, where pupils could use knowledge and skills gained at different lessons to present, read and interpret data by using texts, figures, diagrams and different audio-visual forms.
  • Knowledge and use of ICT during lessons.
  • Cooperation and constructive approach to group work, problem solving and active participation in the joint activities at school in a constructive, responsible and creative manner through promoting the spirit of mutual respect, equality, solidarity and cooperation.
  • Development of a responsible relation to health, personal and general hygiene, and the awareness of all dimensions of health (physical, mental, social, emotional health).
  • Development of environmental awareness and responsible relation to preservation of a healthy environment.
  • Development of aesthetic dimension and free artistic expression.
  • Development of personal entrepreneurship and initiative and advocating for the ideas and influencing others.

 

The existing timetable of lectures was completely reorganized in the school in the course of inclusion of migrant pupils. The lectures follow the school calendar, but the classes are adjusted in order to create appropriate conditions for the inclusion of migrant pupils into the learning process.

We would like to emphasize the necessity and importance of teaching on the combined basis:

  • Combination of methods,
  • Implementation of all forms of work,
  • Implementation of innovative technologies,
  • Individualization and differentiation,
  • Simultaneous interpretation,
  • Interaction,
  • Multi-lingual teaching aids,
  • Assistance and support to individual pupils.

 

Lectures are held in four forms implemented every day:

1. Lectures in accordance with the existing timetable per days and subjects,

2. Lectures consisting of two lessons, according to special plans (workshop type of lessons),

3. Extracurricular activities,

4. Individual lectures.

 

 

Image 1. The method of organization of the work in school on weekly basis

 

STEPS IMPLEMENTED

 

  1. Forming the TEAM for the inclusion of migrant pupils into school

The TEAM members are the employees who completed the training for the inclusion of migrants, and other employees who are enthusiasts, have a developed empathy, are responsible, open to cooperation and ready to deal with the new situations, who are mutually supportive and open to compromise, and also members of support services (psychologist, pedagogue, pedagogue assistant, defectologists,…)

 

  1. Preparation of school staff and creation of an enabling environment for the inclusion of migrants in school

The atmosphere among the school staff is crucial for the manner in which the migrants will be included into the activities at school. To prepare all the school staff to work with the migrant pupils, we organized:

  • Teaching staff councils on which the staff was introduced with singularities of the children to be included into lectures,
  • Workshops for overcoming of prejudice and acceptance of cultural differences,
  • Staff meetings and harmonization of the method of operation,
  • Expert roundtables on which the school staff was introduced with culture, art, and political circumstances of the countries the migrants come from,
  • Meetings with other actors in the process: Centre for Social Work, Commissariat for Refugees, Ministry of Education.

 

  1. Evaluation of the overall situation

 

  1. Comprehensive surveying of the situation in which the pupils live. Their living conditions, needs and priorities drive a rapid initiative.
  2. Current support by social services, Commissariat for Refugees, healthcare institutions, NGOs, interpreters and volunteers.
  3. Distance from school and the possibility of providing the transport to school.
  4. Availability of resources at school, options for their maximum use, flexibility of staff and organization of work for the purpose of adjusting to the target group needs.
  5. Assessment of options for continuous attendance at classes.

 

  1. Creating safe and unhindered conditions for activities at school

Although it seems that the local community is not included into the school activities and the inclusion of migrant pupils into the teaching process - that is not true. That is why we prepared everyone for the safe functioning in the school and outside of it.   

  • We talked to the representatives of the local community and prepared them for the arrival of migrant pupils,
  • We informed the Ministry of Interior and included the school policeman into our work.

 

  1. Individual evaluation and profiling included the collection of personal data and information about each pupil from multiple sources: 
  • From pupils themselves (interviews by the members of the team for the inclusion of the migrant children);
  • From guardians, if the migrant pupils are unaccompanied by parents and/or family members;
  • From social workers who represent an important link in data collection, as they are familiar with the whole situation of the migrant pupils;
  • In exceptional cases, from the Commissariat for Refugees, the Police, volunteers and other services that have a direct contact with pupils.  

 

  1. Inclusion into a group (class)

Preparations for the inclusion of migrant pupils into classes required preparation of both sides (both the pupils in a class and the migrant pupils) for easier, better and more purposeful functioning of the teaching process. Here we would like to emphasize the activities at the level of the classes concerning cultural differences, embracing diversity and rejecting prejudice. It was necessary to “break down” the prejudice adopted in the family, from the media or acquired in everyday life, in order to create a positive environment in a class. On the other hand, cultural differences were presented to the migrant pupils being included into teaching process, they were introduced with the rules of conduct in the school and they were prepared to deal with the group in the best possible way.

 

  1. Planning of lectures in new conditions

The existing curriculum is followed at regular lectures and the method, aids and forms of work during lectures are adjusted. Expert associates and interpreters help with the implementation of individualization. The manner and arrangement of seating and availability of content and information are also considered.

 

Regular lectures

If a teacher is well prepared, there are no great discrepancies at regular lectures. There is content for every lecture prepared in advance (special adjusted teaching sheets, tasks at several levels of complexity and other teaching materials enabling individualization) for every migrant pupil, thus enabling the smooth operation of the whole class. Creativity of teachers and their resourcefulness in new situations were particularly prominent here.  

Our experience shows excellent cooperation of mentor pupils and migrant pupils. In senior classes, where pupils speak better English, one of the pupils from the class (or several of them, if several migrant pupils are included into work) is given the role of mentor. That pupil is in charge of his/her migrant peer, he/she helps him/her, interprets if necessary, explains them the rules of the lectures and assists with learning. On the other hand, he/she guides and shares with the class the experience and knowledge of the migrant pupil in that field. This intensifies peer cooperation and does not interfere with lectures, and it has a positive impact on both mentor pupil and migrant pupil, as well as the whole class.

The complete implementation of the teaching process in terms of the inclusion of migrant pupils depended on the entrepreneurial potential of the staff, flexibility of the school principal and management. In every implementation phase, they represented the tools for creating new opportunities and relations in providing the resources required for the smooth teaching process. Good management includes adjusting of human, physical and material (financial) potentials.

The school created the network of operation with important factors in a given situation. It primarily pertains to the cooperation with:

  • Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development,
  • UNICEF,
  • Commissariat for Refugees and Migration,
  • Centre for Social Work (refers in particular to social workers in charge of the enrolled pupils),
  • Ministry of Interior,
  • Local community,
  • NGOs,
  • Other education institutions.

Finally, we would like to emphasize once again that migrant pupils are motivated to work, that many of them who attended school are used to discipline, that does not mean that they will behave differently from other learners. It is important to break down the barriers, learn from each other and open up slowly.

After three years we are proud about our work with migrant/refugee pupils. All of them learned the language as much as they wanted. Some of them continued further education in secondary schools in Serbia, and a lot of them went to the EU countries. They became useful members of the society they live in, ready and capable of working and earning their living.

 

Nenad Ćirić, the Principal of “Branko Pešić“ Primary School

Ljiljana Panjković, teacher of Serbian language and literature

Darko Stanojković, grade teacher

 

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