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CROSSING OVER NEWSLETTER

ISSUE 14 SPRING/SUMMER 2008


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INDIE: INCLUSION AND The

words ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity’ are everywhere nowadays as Europe is becoming increasingly diverse. And where better to start building on our understanding of these terms than in schools? According to new research conducted by the British Council in February 2008 across 47 schools in Europe, children find that differences in physical appearance, disability and skin colour are barriers to fitting in at school. In the Netherlands 16% said that bullying was a problem in their school, compared to 43% in Scotland and 32% in Wales. When asked about the reasons for being ‘made fun of’, 11% of Dutch respondents replied it was due to language difficulties, 12% that it was due to skin colour, 10% that it was because of racial difference and 10% that it was down to religion. Furthermore 56% stated it was due to the clothes pupils wear and 53% that it was due to differences in physical appearance. In the same survey, one fifth of the children across Europe suggest that more wide-ranging recognition of religious holidays in the school calendar may contribute positively to pupils’ sense of inclusion. They also suggested better induction for migrant children and parents when they start school, and more time to discuss differences in backgrounds and cultures in the classroom. The Inclusion and Diversity in Education project unites policy makers in the field of Education and Inclusion with head teachers and ‘young leaders’ from ten European countries: Belgium, England, Germany Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Spain and Wales. Every participating country organised training sessions in ‘leadership in culturally diverse schools’ for 50 pupils aged 14 to 16 from selected schools. Four of the five Dutch schools participating in INDIE come from Arnhem: Olympus College, Lorentz Lyceum, Arentheem College Middachtensingel, Arentheem College Thomas a Kempis; one school is in Zutphen: Isendoorn College. All the pupils had the opportunity to debate the subject of inclusion and diversity and to develop their skills in communication and team working. Under the guidance of professional trainers, they also learnt to develop ideas and express them to others through a three-day training session. At the end of the training session, pupils voted for one delegate from their school to go to Brussels as their representative. The choice was certainly not easy due to high numbers of enthusiastic and clearly qualified candidates. However, congratulations for winning this challenging task went to Anne, Chantal, Ellis, Tristan and Zana. All roads lead to Brussels Young people from ten countries across Europe met in Brussels from 27 to 29 February to voice their ambitions for Inclusion and Diversity in their schools. Accompanied by their teachers, Janine and

Bas, our five young people arrived on Tuesday afternoon, for an appointment at the Huis van Nederlandse Provincies in Brussels. After their official visit, they checked into Youth Hostel and learned more about what was waiting for them the following three days… The workshops, working in cluster groups - and most importantly - the making of the European Youth Charter on Inclusion and Diversity. Now was the time to put into practice all the new skills they developed during the training sessions. It started with forgetting about one’s own country Charter and moving forward to three cluster ones: 1) Netherlands-Wales-Germany, 2) Belgium-Italy-England and 3) SpainPortugal-Greece-Scotland. By the end of Wednesday evening, the three cluster Charters became one common Charter to be presented to their Head Teachers and Partners on Thursday morning. After two days of hard work, the young people deserved – and desperately needed - a few hours off, so went sightseeing in Brussels while the adults spent the whole afternoon in their cluster groups proposing action points for the future. After some shopping (who can resist Belgian chocolate?), all the pupils gathered one last time at the Youth Hostel for an afternoon of preparation in advance of the presentations at the European Parliament on Friday morning. With the help of the trainers, Wim and Ronald, and poet Levi Tafari (see also the interview on the following pages), they worked on finalising the presentation of the Charter. On Friday morning, representatives from the European institutions, regional representations in Brussels, policy makers from participating regions, the media, all the head teachers and the project partners gathered at the European Parliament. They had arrived to hear what the INDIE youngsters had to say. After an introduction by Stephan Roman1 and key note speeches by Frank Vandenbroucke2 and Odile Quintin3, INDIE’s core message was restated: diversity is to be celebrated and where better to start than in schools! Understandably nervous, but far too enthusiastic and excited to be daunted by the imposing structure of the venue and the senior audience, the pupils took to the stage. In three separate groups, they presented the European Youth Charter, explained how they came up with its various components, and performed their diversity poem in several different languages. Creativity, enthusiasm, emotion and hope swept through the European Parliament that morning. If there is one thing to be remembered from this conference, it is the powerful will of the young people to speak their mind, but moreover, to be heard. Everyone has listened; now it is time for action! CANAN MARASLIGIL

DIVERSITY IN EDUCATION EUROPEAN YOUTH CHARTER ON INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY IN EDUCATION Presented on Friday 29 February 2008 at the European Parliament, Brussels

1 In the school environment, both pupils and staff should learn to appreciate the differences between religion, cultures, sexual orientation in the school community, even if one’s views clash with others’ beliefs. 2 Young people should have their voices and opinions heard when decisions are being made concerning them, for example by giving student councils an effective and powerful voice; student councils should have an advisory role in schools. 3 Within the school curriculum, students should be given opportunities to learn about cultural diversity. 4 Schools should offer the possibility for pupils to share their experiences and views with the community, promoting better communication and integration. 5 Schools should educate the whole person – to develop them academically, emotionally, physically and morally to achieve their full potential. 6 Schools should provide new ways of teaching and learning to help every young person learn well, for example by having courses taught by specialist practitioners in intercultural learning to enable the students to benefit from their expertise and passion. 7 Schools should give possibilities to a wider range of cultures and religions, including more diverse language learning. 8 Schools should provide mentors to help new students, foreign students or students with special needs to integrate into the community, for example by having extra sessions to help foreign students learn the majority language and preserve their mother tongue, and by ensuring that the additional special needs of students are catered for through the school environment and within the school curriculum. 9 Provide staff training to ensure that teachers are able to deal with students’ problems and issues in a culturally sensitive way and provide an increased number of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds.

1) Regional Director, British Council Western Europe North America 2) Vice-Minister-President of the Flemish Government and Flemish Minister for Work, Education and Training

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3) Director General DG Education and Culture, European Commission

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A POETIC CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY Poet and playwright Levi Tafari was born in Liverpool. He is the author of four poetry collections: Duboetry (1987), Liverpool Experience (1989), Rhyme Don’t Pay (1998) and From the Page to the Stage (2006). Levi has also contributed to many educational projects running creative writing workshops and worked in Brussels with our INDIE kids. He tells Canan Marasligil more about his writing and life experience. How do you feel when people ask you “where are you from"? I don’t feel any negative or positive; I just feel people are being inquisitive. When I say to people I’m from Liverpool, they go on asking from where originally, so I tell them I was born in Liverpool. And sometimes people have difficulty and they go on asking: but before that? Then you think: how can there be any before I’m born? But I acknowledge that I have a West African root with Caribbean heritage and a British experience. I have Ghanaian roots, Jamaican heritage because my parents are from Jamaica and I was born and raised in Liverpool. So I see myself as being tricultural, having three cultures. Do you use this tri-cultural aspect a lot in your poetry? I use it in my everyday living, and the three elements guide me through life. I also use them in my poetry. I sometimes write poetry in the Jamaican nation language, sometimes it might have a kind of West African rhythm and a reggae beat, or even hip hop rap style, which I know is American, but also part of the African-American experience. Is gathering all these experiences and heritage more enriching than an obstacle for you?

direction, and a good way of thinking, a spiritual foundation. Knowledge is one thing, but wisdom is another. They say that knowledge teaches us that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom teaches us that you do not put a tomato in a fruit salad. This is the difference. You might have the knowledge, but do you have the wisdom to go with the knowledge?

That’s right. I’ve been able to turn it into something positive, rather than seeing it as negative like other people might do. People think that having more than one culture makes you confused, but when we taste food with different flavours, it doesn’t confuse our tongue. It’s delightful! You said yesterday to the children from the INDIE project that your name has a specific meaning. Can you explain it? Levi means “unity” and Tafari means “creator”, so when you put them together, you get a “creator of unity”, which I try to achieve with the various people I work with. This name was given to me when I converted to Rastafari (religious movement that emerged in Jamaica within working class and peasant black people in the early 1930s). People are very spiritual in the Caribbean so it’s not unusual to be given Biblical names. Levi is a strong name because unity is strength, and Levi was the priest. You said to the children yesterday that one never knows when one will become a refugee. Here in the West, we have the feeling that it will never happen to us. What would you like to say to these people who think that they are protected in some way? To change their way of thinking because anything can happen! It might not necessarily be a terrorist attack, it could be nature. Nature can strike really bad; the tsunami took more than 300,000 lives! People should empathise with other people’s situations, because you know, one minute you’re a healthy person and the next minute you have a nasty cough which the doctor tells you is nothing good and then you have to change your lifestyle, you may even become disabled, and then you think “now I understand what they’re going through”.

Tristan Braakman and Zana Atasoy at the INDIE Conference photo © Lars Deneyer

teach. The same applies to communicate, if I am talking to you, you need to listen to what I’m saying and I need to know that you listen for the communication to be complete. And then organising is about balance, two sides working on three, then in harmony. So Communicating, Educate, Organise! And then you said: Communicate, Educate and Get Wise! Get wise, that’s right! Do you think you achieve wisdom through poetry? I think so, and I think I started writing because I embraced the Rastafarian way of life, and this gave me a focus and a

In your poem Celebr8 you write “There’s Room for You and Space for Me”, which is a way of saying let’s live together with our differences of course, but is living together ‘tolerance’? We had a discussion about this term this morning while reviewing the Charter, and everybody agreed on changing the word tolerate to… Appreciate! I agree, and I also was going to suggest reviewing that word. To tolerate means to put up with, whereas to appreciate means to embrace and to see the goodness. People need to learn to appreciate the differences. We can have a tolerant spirit, but we need to appreciate other people because we’re all people! It starts with self. People who are racists, sexists, ageists, are just reflecting their insecurities on other people. They’re at war with themselves and they take that war to other people. It makes the world bitter. You shared this positive feeling about diversity really well with the children here in Brussels during the last three days. We gave the kids the material, the ideas and they came up with the substance. For their last work, they wrote something that was relative to them in their voice, in their mother tongue, so I feel uplifted!

In one of your poems you say “Communicate, Educate, Organise” – is this how people will be able to achieve such understanding? Definitely, because all of these are reciprocating: education is a two-way process, it’s to teach for someone to learn, and someone has to learn to be able to

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Levi Tafari during a workshop in Brussels

The Young Leaders in Brussels

photo © Lars Deneyer

photo © Lars Deneyer

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Inclusion and Diversity in Education  

Article about the Brussels conference on Inclusion and Diversity in Education, organised in the frame of a British Council project, followed...

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