The aim of the project in the primary school is to equip children with skills to challenge xenophobia in a child-friendly and motivating way. The project utilized school subjects including art, music, drama, writing and design to help children grasp the concept of anti-xenophobia. The children developed a story with a happy ending that promotes positive images. Children across Europe worked on a common beginning of a story.
`There is a small community (it could be a village, a school, a hotel, holiday camp, small town etc.) and everyone is busy with their everyday life. Suddenly they hear the sounds of new people coming. The people of this community are surprised, what is going to happen?`
The students were able to compare and contrast how children in other countries have developed their stories. Teachers met their European colleagues to exchange ideas, plan, support and talk about their experiences and learning outcomes. Parents took notice of what their children have produced and saw performances conducted at school. Moreover they saw what children from other European countries have done with the same story.
All teachers were strongly encouraged to find ways to teach primary school children that there was no need to be afraid of people from other countries and that they can be friendly with these interesting guests and learn a lot.
Since Gozo College Qala Primary is a small school (110 students), all students and teachers participated in the activities held. The Head of School always offered the mobilities to all the staff. The participants were chosen in a fair manner without any complaints. The school tried to involve all staff members and pupils in the project. All members of staff contributed in the school activities The SMT and other teachers planned the calendar of events of the project. While the other peripatetic teachers, together with the music teacher, planned and organised the activities with the participation of all the students. They also exchanged greetings and Christmas/Easter cards. During our school visits children were encouraged to learn some foreign words in other languages. They exhibited charts, works and information about various countries. During most of the activities parents were also invited.
There was ongoing correspondence between partner countries. Every activity was uploaded on the website: http://www.paletopheusden.nl/index.php/home. Since the website is in Dutch, our school uploaded all the reports of activities and visits abroad on our school blog in English: http://gc.qala.skola.edu.mt/. Frequent meetings were being held to discuss outcomes and projections for the upcoming events. Our children were eager to communicate with other children of partner countries via skype and other forms of communication such as sending e-mails. However, along the course of the project the school encountered some issues in using modern technology among under-aged students due to the data protection. The school management and teaching staff were very attentive not to expose the children’s identity and e-mail addresses. In order to safeguard the students, the idea of using this communication tool was discarded.
Students developed greater empathy towards children and adults from other countries (refugees, African countries and English speaking returned migrants etc.) Students mastered skills to recognise and challenge instances of racism and promote equality. They developed a broader knowledge, understanding an appreciation of the various customs, traditions and cultures of other people.
Other institutions and organizations of the local community, parents and other community members were invited to the all school activities. During mobilities, when members from foreign schools visited our school, meetings were held with other schools (Sannat and Victoria Primary), I.T.S. (Institute of Tourism studies) and the Gozo Principal and the Education Officer for Gozo. Every educational outing offered during their visit offers an opportunity for interaction and communication with the local community (Qala and Gozo in general).
A positive impact at community level was experienced. Although Qala is a small village, its population has a high percentage of English speaking persons who are integrated in our community in order to share their experiences and knowledge. A retired English teacher, Mrs Brown, comes to school twice a week to help children with the reading lessons and children were involved in discussion on current issues and various topics with the upper classes. A group of refugees, who resided at Jesuits Refugee Centre, were invited to come and deliver a speech in English about what led them to their present situation. They also performed traditional music and danced in front of the children. It was very effective and the children were highly impressed. Photos of this visit were uploaded on the school blog and children’s work was exhibited on the noticeboards.
The class teachers, the Complementary, Health & Safety, Music and PSD Teachers made a joint effort and spoke (had discussions in class) about Anti-Xenophobia. It was noted that the children have learnt a great deal and understood the pain certain people go through when discriminated.
A common questionnaire on anti-Xenophobia was carried out in our school at the beginning of the project to document the children’s perception on racism. The same questionnaire was carried out in other partner countries.