EAEA GRUNDTVIG AWARD 2016. With the numbers of refugees increasing, some European schools for adults encounter difficulty in accommodating the growing demands for classes. The Agora Association of Adult Schools of la Verneda – Sant Marti in Barcelona has an opposite problem: although it is ready to accept migrant students, national policies keep refugees at bay.
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The Agora Association of Adult Schools of la Verneda – Sant Marti embraces the principle of active pedagogy and dialogic learning, letting students speak out about their vision of the school. As the learners have expressed overwhelming support for refugees, the association is now ready to offer courses for refugees. This open-door policy, however, does not reflect the government’s stance, which remains opposed to the reception of asylum-seekers.
The association offers flexible programmes, allowing refugees to enroll at any time during the year, with no waiting list. The courses take place throughout the week and at different times of the day to make sure that everybody can participate. The focus of the available programmes is also intended to respond to refugees’ needs, as the offer includes language and computer literacy classes.
The principle of open and free education represents only one line of work at the association. Others include its intercultural approach, prevention of racism and validation of skills, to name only a few. La Verneda – Sant Marti also underscores the importance of volunteering and its benefits to refugees. It points out that many refugees come to Europe highly-trained and willing to share their knowledge and the school offers them an outlet to display this knowledge and help others.
Local citizens have also expressed their interest in volunteering at the school, following the awareness-raising meetings that the association has organized in and around Barcelona. La Verneda – Sant Marti has also significantly expanded its network of collaborators and has signed formal agreements with the committees and organizations that coordinate the reception of refugees: the Spanish Commission of Help to the Refugee (CEAR) and the City Council of Barcelona.
The involvement of both local volunteers and authorities helps the school achieve a multiplier effect, spreading the word about the initiative. It can only be hoped that national policy-makers and stakeholders will follow suit.
Text: Aleksandra Kozyra
Photos: Adult School La Verneda - Sant Marti