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Home Up Flanders Wallonia

 

(excerpt of INTERFACE 11)

This issue focuses on Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. The information file presented below was coordinated by Mare Verlot, Expert chargd de mission with the Belgian Department of Education, member of the Commission of the European Communities Ad Hoc Group on school provision for Gypsy and Traveller children.

1. Introduction

The usefulness of an information file such as that which follows is not limited to informing individuals or organisations elsewhere in Europe about the situation of Gypsies and Travellers within the Dutch-speaking school structure in Belgium. It is equally important as an opportunity for us to critically examine ourselves in relation to several important questions. What is the current situation in this field in Flanders ? What should we be doing- particularly in our school system- for these population groups?

Before going on to discuss our topic, some background information is in order. Belgium is a federal State comprising three linguistic communities (speaking Dutch, French, and German respectively) and three distinct geographical Regions (Flemish Region, Walloon Region, and Region of Brussels Capital). Since the Dutch-speaking Flemish population is largely synonymous with the Flanders region, we can cover both realities (linguistic and geographical) with either term. We should also point out that a significant majority of the Belgian population- six out of every ten citizens- is Flemish, speaking Dutch as their mothertongue. Education and social affairs, the two fields of most direct relevance to our present topic, are both devolved responsibilities handled by the Regions rather than federally. As all decisions are taken independently, policies may differ markedly from one Region to another.

Meanwhile, we cannot hide behind the absence of solid, up-to-date research findings. The theme itself has been well known for a considerable time- not by the public at large, nor even in teaching circles generally, but certainly among those directly involved. Although available figures are only estimates, the number of Gypsies and Travellers of school age in Flanders is a few thousand at most: numerically, a negligible proportion of the total Flemish schoolgoing population. Yet given these small numbers, the poor attendance rates, scholastic retardation, and the absence of any systematic approach are all the more striking. No teaching system, no school in Flanders or for that matter anywhere else in Europe can continue to shut out these children and abandon them to their fate- no matter how different their lifestyle and their culture. With this in mind, I refer the reader to the Accord of the Flemish Regional Government which explicitly stipulates among its basic principles of teaching policy: "We shall pursue a policy of guided encouragement in relation to young people from groups which participate little in the school system..."

It is part of our democratic and social duty, in Flanders and throughout Europe, to ensure that Gypsy and Traveller children are no longer denied the right to quality, adapted teaching. I am well aware that, in the eyes of many citizens, Gypsies and Travelling People are nothing but "strangers" in our society: they live on its margins, their way of life is far removed from ours, and they- particularly the Gypsies- carry the stigma of a bad reputation. Yet the majority of Gypsies and Travellers undeniably belong to Flemish- and European- social space: the Travellers arose from our indigenous population, the Rom have been established in Flanders for over a century, the Manouches have been travelling here since the 16th century... Even with regard to the "new arrivals", a significant number of whom are only temporarily in our country, schools can no longer evade their obligations. In relation to this last group, we may well need to enter into discussions with other European countries in order to ensure teaching continuity for Gypsy groups whose travels regularly bring them across State borders,

It also follows, from the considerations outlined above, that now more than ever an appropriate teaching policy is required. In addition to opening equal opportunities to Gypsies and Travellers, such a policy must also respect their language, culture, and identity. With this twofold goal in mind, those involved- teachers, school boards, liaison teachers, parents etc. must face up to their responsibilities in order to meet this challenge. As is apparent in the information file presented below, a number of steps have already been taken in Flanders, towards improving school provision for, and the pedagogical accommodation of, the children of Gypsies and Travellers.

2. General Context

History

Historical documents testify to a gypsy presence from the 15th century in the cities of Antwerp (1419), Brussels (1420), Tournai and Mons (1421). These may have been the ancestors of the Manouche Gypsies present in Belgium today (see above). From the 16th century, these cities gradually withdrew their hospitality. Expulsion orders ("placaeten") began to be issued by the public authorities, starting with the Grand Duchy of Brabant in 1510 and quickly followed by the Grand Duchies of Flanders, and of Hainaut (1512) and the Principality of Liège (1540).

From the first half of the 17th century, groups of nomadic Gypsies began to include persons born in these regions. The majority of Gypsies were to be found in the Principality of Liège, where the prince pursued a policy of relative tolerance. This lasted only until 1672, when the reigning prince brought local Gypsy policy into line with that practised in neighbouring States.

The 18th century saw the nadir of Gypsy persecution. Massive anti-Gypsy campaigns in the Netherlands caused Gypsies there to flee southwards, to Liège, the Ardennes, Lotharingia and Alsace. In 1711, severe repressive measures were implemented in the Principality of Liège and in the Habsburg Low Countries (Brabant and Limburg). In the early 18th century, much repression also took place under the regime of Napoleon, but by the end of the century persecution was on the wane, replaced by attempts at violent, compulsory integration aimed at wiping out Gypsy culture.

In 1856, slavery was abolished in the Romanian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, giving rise to a second wave of migration : Roma left these regions for Russia and Western Europe, bringing other groups of nomads in their wake. France's loss of Alsace and Lotharingia to Prussia in 1870 started off a new period of international population movement (including of Manouches and Jenische) which was to continue up to the eve of the First World War. Simultaneously, unstable socioeconomic conditions led many settled people to take to the roads. The end result has been a m61ange of various sorts of Travellers, from the Gypsies to commercial nomads.

The recent history of the Gypsies in Belgium may be summarised in three phases. In the first of these, from the time of their arrival in Belgium (approximately 1860) to 1933, they were pursued. "Foreign" Gypsies had no official existence, no identity, no nationality. They were subjected to indirect repression through legislation penalising aspects of their lifestyle (nomadism, exercising trades outside the legal pale) as well as their status as non-nationals, directed against begging, vagabondage, and the itinerant life. Such legislation was applied specifically to Gypsies, through every sort of Ministerial circular and political memorandum. Yet they continued to travel throughout Belgium, surviving through their ingenuity. During the First World War (1914-1918), Gypsies and Travellers fought alongside the Belgian army at Yser, in the wake of which they were granted Belgian citizenship. Meanwhile, the Belgian administration went on treating them the same way: nomads who were known to be "foreigners" were still pursued.

A second distinct phase (1933-1965) occurred, during which Gypsies were tolerated . The first stage of this was the issuing of 'feuilles de voyage" ("travel sheets"), later replaced by "cartes de Tsigane" ("Gypsy cards"). This latter was not an identity document, but merely an authorisation to remain in Belgium for up to three months. The holder was obliged to report to the police at monthly intervals to have it stamped. The German occupation during the Second World War was, in Belgium as everywhere in Europe, the most difficult and painful period of their recent history. Nomadic families who fled in May 1940 with other Belgian refugees, were interned in France. Others were detained in a converted army barracks at Malines/Mechelen; between 1943-1944, three convoys of Gypsies were transported from there to Auschwitz. Between 1940-1945, approximately 500 Belgian Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis.

The third phase began in 1965, with the recognition of Gypsies' right to permanent residence, as a result of which they are no longer living in constant fear of expulsion; nonetheless, the carte de Tsigane was only dropped in 1975. From that date, Gypsies were permitted to formally establish residence by registering with a local authority's "list of foreigners". At present the majority of Travelling People hold Belgian passports, though a significant number of Rom continue to live in the curious state of "indeterminate nationality". While all Belgian residents are obliged, for administrational purposes, to be officially registered in / attached to a local authority somewhere in the country, Travelling People are not required to register as residents of the area where they happen to be living at the moment. Instead, they may register in the local authority area where they have a reference address, or where they live for six months of the year.

 Demography

For the moment, it is impossible to provide reliable statistics on the number of Gypsies and Travellers in Flanders, nor on the nomadic : sedentary ratio among them (the survey currently under way may clarify these questions one way or another, when it is completed). Instead, we will give a brief overview of the various Gypsy and Traveller groups present in Flanders (excluding "new" caravan-dwellers). Very general estimates of numbers are given for each group.

a) "local" Gypsies and Travellers

- Rom Gypsies: The Belgikarja Roma are, broadly speaking, the descendants of "second wave" immigrants who formerly travelled throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Following the abolition of slavery in Romania in 1856, they came to Belgium (see above) where they took up (semi-) permanent residence. There are about 500 of them. They speak Romani, with French as their second language and a utilitarian grasp of Dutch as a third. They form a relatively closed group among which social and family ties are both extensive and intense. This group is very attached to its values and traditions. A great many of them are to be found on halting sites which they themselves rent or buy outright, and where they pass the winter. Rom Gypsies are more mobile than Manouche Gypsies (see below). They are characterised by the fact that virtually all of them live in caravans. They travel in convoys of 10-20 vehicles and stop for the most part in the suburbs of major cities (especially Antwerp and Brussels);

- Manouche Qvpsies : The Manouche form an ethnic subgroup of the Sinti, and in Belgium comprise a group several thousand strong. Broadly speaking, they are descended from the "first wave" of immigrants (those who left India from the I Ith century), and have been living in the Germanic countries for a very long time now. They arrived in Belgium in the 16th century, and are relatively well-integrated into society. They speak Manouche (also known as "Sinto"), with Dutch as their second language. Their distribution is mostly the same as that of the Rom although, since they no longer live in caravans, they are less mobile than the former. They are to be found in various places throughout Flanders: Brussels, Antwerp, Aalst, Malines/Mechelen, Ypres;

- Eastern European Gypsies : descended from the "third wave" of immigration, this group arrived in the broad context of the economic migrations of the 1960's. They live in "fixed" accommodation and are invisible to the outside world, yet have their own way of life and retain their subjection to the group. They can only occasionally be glimpsed as a distinct entity, merging instead with other immigrant workers (particularly Turks and Yugoslavs) from whom they conceal their Gypsy identity for fear of rejection;

- Travellers : The Travellers, that is to say indigenous Dutch-speaking nomads, comprise the numerically largest, and the most strongly sedentarised, group: a large proportion of them live permanently on caravan sites.There are an estimated 6,500-7,000 Travellers living in mobile accommodation; although it is recognised that a number of Travellers livetemporarily or permanently- in fixed accommodation, no figures are available for this group. Broadly speaking, the Travellers are nomads descended from the indigenous population from the 19th century onwards, and who, as a result of poverty and marginalisation, became detached from mainstream society (particularly in Western Flanders, Limburg, and the Ardennes). Gradually, through mixing with Gypsies and sharing a similar social position with them, they developed a social organisation strongly similar to the Gypsy model. As members of the two groups met on their travels or through sharing campsites (there are only limited possibilities for travelling in Belgium), further cultural exchanges and intermarriage have occurred. Bargoens, the Travellers' own language, is no longer commonly spoken by them, although a small number of families continue to use it.

In certain parts of Flanders, Travellers are virtually invisible: in Western Flanders, for example, there are no official halting sites, and most Traveller families live in houses; for soi-ne families it is difficult to know if they should still be counted as belonging to the Traveller group. Travelling People are increasingly taking up permanent residence on halting sites and forging ties with local communities and local services. The group is constantly changing: many Travellers integrate back into "civil society" senso largo (and no longer wish to be known as Travellers), while from time to time other Travellers disengage from the non-Traveller world and reidentify with the Traveller one. Many house-dwelling Travellers maintain their Traveller identity. Moreover, it is also known that the Traveller world and that of fairground operators overlap to a certain degree (particularly in the province of Limburg). Travellers are to be found all over Belgium, their greatest concentrations in the Flemish part being in Limburg, Western Flanders, and in the Antwerp region.

b) "nomadic" Gypsies

From the 1960's, within the third migration, a number of smaller waves of nomads have passed through the country- be it on a once-off, occasional, or seasonal basis, some of them illegally- in connection with their economic pursuits. Most of these are highly mobile, international nomads who do not take up permanent residence here, but regularly return to their countries of origin: Eastern European Gypsies (mainly Yugoslav and Polish), nomadic Roma and Sinti, and Gitanos, all of whom come in search of fresh economic pastures. Some go back on the road, others move into fixed accommodation for the duration of their stay. They may also arrive in connection with pilgrimages or Pentecostalist gatherings.

From the late 80's-early 90's, as part of the general wave of immigration from Eastern Europe (which seems to have peaked, and is now tapering off), a significant number of Gypsies from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania entered Belgium, many of them requesting political asylum. Their living conditions in their countries of origin are often extremely marginalised, and they come to the West in search of a better life. Belgian Gypsies do not wish to be mistaken for Yugoslav Gypsies who, they say, are responsible for the bad reputation the group as a whole has among the sedentary population.

Sedentarisation, Patterns of traavel, Places of Residence

The Gypsy and Traveller group is largely sedentarised: they live in houses for prolonged periods, and only travel sporadically. Nomadism is not illegal in Belgium, but it is rendered difficult by a number of laws: for example, the highway code prohibits 24-hour parking. Travelling is constantly being made more difficult. Many traditional camping places have disappeared: houses, factories, and new roads are built over them. In winter in particular, Travelling People habitually stop in the same places, known as "sites for residential caravans"; only about 20% are to be found in public caravan sites. Still others buy or rent private sites, or set up home on waste ground. These last live in the most precarious conditions, entirely dependent on local goodwill, and constantly subject to eviction. Most official sites are fully equipped.

In Belgium, Gypsies and Travellers are becoming "localised", taking on customs and manners which no longer have much in common with traditions of travel. At any rate they are, as noted above, strongly sedentarised, although this permanent base does not exclude mobility- when they do travel, their circuits are not wide ones. Rom Gypsies do travel frequently, particularly during the summer season (April / May - September), but their travel patterns are unpredictable. Theirs is an ad hoc nomadism based on religious gatherings in Belgium and abroad (Pentecostalist "conventions", traditional pilgrimages), family visits, family affairs, inter-clan relations, and, naturally, travel for economic reasons (people go where they think they will be able to make money). The travel patterns of nomadic Gypsies who pass through Belgium (see above) differ from those of localised Gypsies, and are little known.

3. School

School Attendance and the Scholastic Situation

Up to the very recent past the Travelling People of Flanders have had no tradition of school attendance. In every group or family only a few representatives of each generation are able to read and write. Only rarely does a child attend school for several consecutive years, since the travelling life is incompatible with being tied to a fixed school. Traditional crafts are passed on from father to son and mother to daughter, and in this field there appears to be little need for literacy. Compulsory schooling has had no significant impact on the general situation of non-attendance and illiteracy. The schools do not seem to be able to bring in Travelling People and Gypsies, and the distance between these populations and society at large appears insurmountable.

Sedentarisation, on the rise since the 1950's, has increased the need for literacy, particularly amongst the adults, but this has not automatically led to school attendance among the children. In spite of everything, some parents do, sporadically, send their children to school- but this tends to be in direct response to pressure from the school inspectors, or out of fear that their children will be taken from them and put into boarding schools. Yet things have changed a great deal over the past decade.

The Rom are generally illiterate, and do not attend school. The Manouche have a very young tradition of school attendance: adult illiteracy in this group varies from 50-80%. Although they originate from local society, the Travellers, like the Gypsies, underwent a long process of marginalisation, and until recently they, like the Gypsies, avoided schooling in general. Yet culturally they have less barriers to overcome: after all, they speak Dutch (or a local dialect thereof), the language of the Flemish classroom. A large number of families have maintained a certain tradition of school attendance going back two or three generations, and the number of illiterates among the Travellers is lower than in other groups. As Travelling People become more and more established in permanent halting sites, they are gradually forming ties with the local community. Slowly, hesitatingly, they are beginning to find the path towards the school. School attendance has risen significantly among the Traveller population over the past few years.

But this general trend towards increased attendance is not directly proportionate to the qualitative aspects of their schooling. Most children of the Travelling People are only in school because it is compulsory, and this attitude is often rooted in their parents' lack of motivation and / or negative image of the school. They get tired of school while still in primary; the transition to secondary is generally problematic, and an unknown but significant number of children drop out at this point. Those who do go on to post-primary almost always opt for short-term vocational courses.

School Structures

No special attention was ever devoted to the question of school provision for Gypsy and Traveller children in Flandersexcept perhaps with regard to those who happened to be attached to travelling fairs- up to World War Two. Even after the War, up to the end of the 1980's, and with the exception of some local initiatives, no structural approach was undertaken in Flanders to the question of promoting school provision for these children.

The first post-War efforts in this direction - initially aimed at the Travellers, and much later also at Gypsies- were initiated by the Catholic Church. To name a few: the setting up of a boarding school for Travellers' children (1948, at Drongen, near Ghent) ; setting up preschool and primary classes, by the Limburg Woonwagenvrienden ("Travellers' Friends") Association, 1958; official recognition of a residential care unit ("Zwaluwnest", at Oostkamp) for Travellers' children placed there by the youth authorities (1966); occasionally taking young Gypsies and Travellers into the "Duiiien Heide" hostel at As; a number of teaching initiatives (backup teaching, sensitising school personnel, literacy programmes etc.) have been carried out since 1960 by Woonwageizwerk Limburg ("Limburg Caravan Work"), and the Keree Amendee association has been providing basic literacy training for Roma on the Wilrijk (Antwerp) site, etc.

It was not until the late 1980',, that public and local authority institutions became involved. Very briefly summarised, their main initiatives have been motivation and orientation classes for Rom children on the sites at Mortsel (1978-1980) and Neder-over-Heembeck (from 1980), to prepare them to enter the school system; and, from 1980, a "reception school", mainly for Travellers' children, outside the normal school system, at Genk (Limburg).

The national authorities showed their first signs of interest and encouragement in the late 1980's. This was not unrelated to general administrative reform which transferred teaching responsibilities from the federal authorities to regional ones (as from I January 1989). In practice, substantial sustained support was offered directly to two Dutch-language schools with Gypsy pupils, through ad hoc financing by the local authorities and / or the Flanders Regional Authority. Beginning with the 1990-1991 school year, the Flanders Regional Authority Department of Education has subsidised the Rom project of the Lieven Gevaert school at Mortsel (see below for further details).

Another project supported within the Flemish policy of prioritising education for immigrants is the Rom Integratie ("Rom Integration") project at Sint-Jans- Molenbeek (Brussels). This was begun in 1987, centred in a Dutch language community school frequented primarily by immigrant Turkish and Moroccan children, Gypsy children, and political refugees. Geared towards Gypsy children who overwinter in the Brussels area, and particularly those living on permanent sites, the project aims to integrate these children into the Brussels region through scholastic motivation and guidance, and by ensuring them access to the school system (via special "adaptation" classes).

If everything goes as planned, the immediate future will see the implementation of a policy of enforced schooling in favour of Gypsy and Traveller children, planned with definitive legal backup, and with budgetary provision and structural support (bringing it into the broader educational framework, selection procedure, inspection, ongoing backup and support... ) so that every school will be in a position to implement it. With this goal in mind, and in expectation of new structural measures, provisional regulations will be in force over the 1993-1994 school year. Specifically, three main courses of action will be pursued:

1. Developing models through project development : more precisely, this will entail extending the project which up to now has been taking place in Mortsel (see below) to three other primary schools.

2. Networking : coordination and support for this project, as well as achieving continuity between the actions undertaken by the different schools involved, will be assured by the setting up of a network around the nucleus of the Vlaams Centrum Woonwagenwerk (VCW).

3. Preparing an integrated approach through the development of sociocultural stimulation in the school setting: there are currently two such projects under way, both financed by the Flemish Fund for the Integration of the Underprivileged (VFIK), in which Travelling People themselves are developing sociocultural stimulation in the school setting. For the moment, this scheme is limited to Hasselt / Maasmechalen and Genk, both in the province of Limburg (see below).

Provisionally, then, the accent is still undeniably on projects focussing on scholastic motivation, orientation, and on gradual integration (by means of adaptation and transition classes) into normal primary classes. These projects should make possible the development of appropriate models and methodologies.

We are also waiting for the activation of the network which will link these projects and create a dynamic which, through mutual consultation and reflection, will enable us to develop a systematic approach towards other topics- such as teacher training, in-service training, information structures, awareness training, developing teaching materials etc. - that remain to be addressed.

In conclusion, we wish to draw the reader's attention to the very recently published brochure, Tussen school en wagen ("Between school and caravan"), covering questions of school provision for Gypsies and Travellers. This publication is aimed at everyone concerned with school provision for these children: teachers, administrative staff, support teachers, liaison teachers, inspectors, parents' committees, and others who are involved one way or another in helping the children of the Travelling People through school. In order to bring these teaching tools down to earth, the book starts off by addressing -far more than any previous publication- the very necessary task of increasing the awareness and understanding of everyone involved in teaching in the broadest sense.

Marc Verlot
Ministerie van Onderwijs
Secretariaat-generaal
Koning Albertlaan 15
1120 Brussel

 

Some new projects

I - Survey of current pilot projects / special initiatives

. "Integration of Rom Children into a Flemish School" project, at Mortsel (Antwerp)

Lieven Gevaert Comniunity School

Osylei 86

B - 2640 - Mortsel

Rom-Integration" project, Sint-Jans- Molenbeek (Brussels)

Regenboogschool

Ulensstraat 83 / de Ribaucourtstraat 180

B - 1210 Sint-Jans-Molenbeek

Reference Book

An important document has just been published by the Spanish delegation to the Socialist Group of the European Parliament and by the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). Entitled Europa contra el Racismo, Repertorio de initiatives comunitarias, Part I outlines European Parliament initiatives on racism and xenophobia. References cover:

-plenary sessions of the European Parliament (debates and parliamentary questions) -documents approved by the Parliament in plenary session -written declarations

-proposals for resolutions

-various questions (written or oral, with or without debate... )

Part 11 covers a selection of texts issued by the Parliament, and two from the Council, followed by a list of deputies and their activities in this field, and a classification of references by keywords. A few pages are also devoted to the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

This compilation was coordinated by Juan de Dios Ramirez Heredia, Member of the European Parliament, in collaboration with Javier Perez Senz, Marisol Guirao Gald6n, Enzo Mariotti, Lourdes Minchot, Olga Sanchez Garcia, and Marta Ferndndez Crespo. The foreword is by Alfonso Guerra, Vice-Secretary General of the Spanish Socialist Party, and the introduction was written by Juan de Dios Ramfrez Heredia.

Contact: Marisol Guirao Bureau MAE 309 European Parliament B - 1047 - Brussels

. SIF project, Hasselt / Maasmechelen

"Developing Socio-cultural Stimulation in the School Setting, and Developing Methodology for the Travelling People" Project coordinator: Thieu Schuurmans (VCW)

launched: November 1991

- Project, Genk

"Socio-cultural Stimulation for Travelling People in the School Setting"

Project coordinator : Hilde Weekens

launched: February 1993

voluntary bodies run a great many local initiatives (help with homework, tackling absenteeism, literacy, remedial / catching up teaching for certain subjects... )

 

2 - The "Integration of Rom Children into a Flemish School" project, Mortsel (Antwerp)

Background and objectives

The Mortsel project is a pilot experiment in relation to the question of scholastic provision for Rom children in Flemish schools. Among the Rom stopping at the local halting site (set up in 1976), school attendance is, for complex reasons, virtually nonexistent. The most important problem,, to be resolved are the parents' attitude of refusal towards the school, an alien institution which clashes with their concept of education; different socialisation (limited development of fine motor skills, total absence of any adaptation to the school), and the children's linguistic background (Dutch is only their second language). The first attempt to organise a Rum class in the Lieven Gevaert community school took place over the 1989-1990 academic year. Some years earlier. (January 1978-May 1980) the "Bond zonder Naam" association had made a first- difficult- attempt to launch a literacy project for Rojyi children (and adults) on the site in question, in the form of an on-site classroom (in an old railway carriage).

The project's goal is twofold:

(a) First, to offer Rom children living on the Mortsel site optimal chances for getting the most from the Flemish school system (with the ultimate goal of their wisely timed integration into normal classes), yet respecting the children's cultural identity;

(b) Secondly, to have the project monitored and evaluated by teachers and a backup/advisory team, in order to develop it as a model opening up approaches and mechanisms for the scholastic accommodation and integration of Rom children, which may serve as a support for extension projects in other schools.

Given the cultural gap separating the world of the school from that of Rom children, the programme envisages transitional structures enabling the children to gradually integrate into normal classes, instead of being forced into them prematurely (which would confirm their preconceptions of school as a hostile place) and finding themselves in a systematically disadvantaged situation (de facto segregation within ordinary classes).

We must not lose sight of the fact that the final goal envisaged by the project is to obtain the "fundamental objectives" of primary level schooling, and to facilitate the transition towards secondary, allowing each young person to choose his or her own training with an eye to his or her own future.

These transitional structures, developed in the "Three Types of Activities in the School" project, each - "in theory"- form a further step in the integration process, namely:

(a) motivation / orientation activities geared towards school socialisation;

(b) learning activities geared towards literacy:

(c) follow-up, geared towards integration in an ordinary class.

For the 1992-1993 school year, two separate classes (a motivation / orientation class, and a literacy class) were suggested as the means of carrying out the first two types of activities. Integration is planned as a gradual process of well-supported stints in the ordinary class.

With regard to school socialisation, it is well to point out that this operates in accordance with two important constituents:

(a) exercises geared towards developing "preschool" rapidity of comprehension (a skill normally learned in infants' pre~primary classes);

(b) it may also take place at the "normal" age, in integrated infants' classes, but in this case is not limited simply to superficial adaptation, instead aiming to familiarise the child with the different cultural context in which he finds himself, the different pedagogical context, the rules of behaviour which differ significantly from what the child has learned at home (and which he has, above all, learned to react against).

The second point is central to motivation and orientation activities. The child receives the support of a liaison worker from the site itself, who takes an active role in the motivation and orientation class. In principle, the presence of a trusted and familiar face should help the children to feel at ease in an alien environment. That this liaison worker may promote the school, and respect for compulsory school attendance, on the site itself is considered a (possible) additional advantage. Given that the Rom project has two full-time employees, it is envisualised that the programmed activities will be carried out in such a way that pupils of the motivation and orientation class will only attend school in the mornings, and activities can be alternated.

Course Structure (1992-1993 school year)

Two class levels:

- one motivation / orientation class (one full-time teacher): a class for adaptation, socialisation, developing basic (preschool) skills, familiarisation with the language; one learning class (one full-time teacher): preparing the children to follow an ordinary class: reading and writing, mastery of he Dutch language, arithmetic.

Coordination and support ( from the technical committee with its supervising, directing, and advisory role): a body (the CPAS: "Public Centre for Social Assistance") that sees to the liaison worker linking school and site (parents), school bus to brine children from the site to the school, funding to pay a Rom to cover the children's religious instruction, another body (the PMS- "Psycho-Medical-Social"~ Centre) seeing to developing adapted scholastic tests. Mortsel local administration, Vlaams Centrum Woonwagenwerk / Keree Amendee (voluntary organisations), the Department of Education (paying teachers and subsidising teaching materials) are also involved in the project.

Evaluation and New Options

Last year, an internal evaluation of the three types of activities (motivation 1 orientation, learning, integration) and of course structures, was carried out. We do not wish to formulate a hasty judgement, but we note that the considerations and conclusions arising from this evaluation oblige us to work towards a reorientation of objectives, organisation, and project programme. Among these, the setting up of a transition class was considered, in which the more advanced pupils of the motivation and orientation class could also benefit from preschool familiarisation with the 3R's, and the learning class pupils having difficulties keeping up could get extra help. This leads to a profound revision of the structuring of integration activities

(concretely: a split between socialisation classes on the one hand, and those geared towards bringing the children into the ordinary class, on the other). We have also recognised the need to actively enlist the goodwill of other teachers so that they too will take an active role in helping the Rom children to integrate in the school.

Meanwhile, we have also begun to introduce the "Dutch as a Second Language" (NT2) method throughout the school. This method is based on the communicative principles of language teaching, and emphasises acquisition of "school" language. The entire teaching staff will be involved in the NT2 programme, which means that all teachers will be re-trained. Finally- in the wake of disappointing results- more thought must be given to the profile of the liaison worker. The Mortsel project will be extended to three other primary schools over the 1993-1994 school year

Contact address:

"Integration of Rom Children into a Flemish School" project Lieven Gevaert Community School Osylei 86

B - 2640 Mortsel

 

3 - Socio-cultural Stimulation for Travelling People in the School Setting: 2 projects in the province of Limburg

As indicated above, there are currently two special projects for Travelling People taking place in Limburg province: one of these was launched in November 1991 in the Hasselt and Maasmechelen municipalities. the other in February 1993 in the municipality of Genk. Both projects are funded by the Flemish Fund for the Integration of the Underprivileged (VFIK) and have as their main objective the development of "sociocultural stimulation in the school settin-", for Travelling People in the municipalities concerned. Limbui-g was not chosen by chance: on the one hand it has a significant proportion of Traveller residents and on the other, over the years, a certain tradition of social support for this population group has developed.

Given that these projects are still at an early stage of development and that no interim data are available as yet, we will limit our discussions here to defining the concept of "sociocultural stimulation in the school setting", and a more precise description of the objectives and strategies developed to date. It is important to emphasise that this is a relatively new, unfamiliar field of action within the schools; nonetheless, sociocultural stimulation in the school setting has been implemented over the past couple of years in a select few schools which benefit from facilities newly available in connection with the recently adopted policy of renovating teaching with an eye to its suitability for immigrant children.

Socio-cultural stimulation in the school setting consists, in fact, of rendering concrete ,activation towards learning". This in turn comprises various actions aimed at families and areas with a high immigrant population, promoting a climate favourable to learning and to education, and to increase parents' interest in these. In other words, activation towards learning is the reduction of the gap between the school setting and the pupils' world outside the school. by improving their mutual adjustment.

For most pupils from Traveller and Gypsy families there is a major gap between the school setting and the family setting. This includes values, norms, and attitudes, and results in parents and teachers having quite different behaviour in relation to education. In order to improve the structure of unequal opportunity in the school, it is essential to reduce the distance between the two, and to construct a solid bridge linking the school setting with that of the home. This may contribute to creating a climate of confidence, in which a durable pedagogical relationship with the children of Travelling People may develop in an optimal manner. Moreover, this approach gives schools, and teachers, an opportunity to form a more accurate picture of the children's social and family background, in order to identify any possible pedagogical difficulties arising from it. Activation to learning must be seen essentially as a two-way process: from the school towards parents / community, and vice versa.

In order to develop parents' interest in the school, and their participation in it, the school must seek out the precious partnership of people with whom to collaborate: liaison personnel, the PMS Centre, auxiliary teachers, voluntary associations concerned with Travelling People, social institutions which have gained a solid foothold among Travelling People residing permanently in the municipalities. Financing for sociocultural stimulation in the school setting is provided by the Flemish Community through its funding programme for extramural teaching. Normally, however, such programmes are short-term and limited in scope: sociocultural stimulation in the school setting will need to be discussed and taken up in a concrete manner at local level, in full collaboration. It may include activities within the school itself (helping to sensitise teachers to the social and cultural context of Gypsies / Travelling People, encouraging parental participation), as well as activities specifically geared towards parents, and parascholastic activities for the pupils (on-site recreational activities). These stimulation projects must, finally, lead to a holistic approach at local level, through the development of "networks" within which all the interested, concerned parties can work together with the aim of offering children the best possible chances of development. Apart from the schools, the local or community integration centre and the local PMS Centres, other local bodies should also be involved in this structure: residents' associations, youth organisations, adult education centres, and other social institutions.

 

 

Contact address:

Vlaams Centrum Woonwagenwerk

Teaching Service

Ravenstraat 112

B-3000 Leuven

(Project Co-ordinator: Lieve Maesmans)

Works consulted:

Beersmans D. and Van Ryckeghem, K. (1979), Onderwijs aan woonivagenkinderen. Vlaams Overleg Woonwagenwerk.

Goethals, N. (1993), Intermediair verslag van het onderzoek: scolarisatie van trekkende bevolking, Ghent.

Lidgeois, J.-P. (1986), School Provision for Gypsy and Traveller Children. Synthesis report. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Reyniers, A. (1985), La scolarisation des Tsiganes et Voyageurs en Belgique et au Grand-Duchi de Luxembo rg. Paris: Sorbonne / Centre de recherches tsiganes

Reyniers, A. (1992), Les Tsiganes en Europe @ l'horizon 1993 : quel role pour les associations? s.1. : UNISAT,

Van Ryckeghem, K. and Wauters, A. (1993), Woonwagenkinderen op weg naar de school. Brussels and Berchem :

EFECOT / VOW / NSKO.

Verlot, M. (Ed.), Intercultureel onderwijs en de scolarisatie van migranten in de Vlaamse Gemeenschap. Feiten en visies. Report to the Commission of the European Communities. Departement Onderwijs van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap. Brussels, October 1992.