Thu 01 Sep 2016 04:28:00 PM EEST
EAEA GRUNDTVIG AWARD 2016. “Cooperation can be difficult, complicated and time-consuming, but it is essential, especially in a crisis situation,” declares Ingegerd Akselsson Le Douaron from EAEA member RIO/FOLAC in Sweden. FOLAC project Inkludera mera was a successful attempt at opening a dialogue with and about asylum seekers, involving a number of folk high schools and NGOs.
The article series shares good practices by introducing the nominees of the EAEA Grundtvig Award 2016.
Including asylum seekers in an open dialogue with the local community is necessary for their successful integration, and EAEA Swedish member RIO/FOLAC launched an initiative that reached far and wide. Thanks to the participation of over 30 folk high schools and 40 NGOs, Inkludera mera (Include more) project had activities across the country. Open seminars, manifestations, street parties and sports events, as well as mentorship programmes and language cafés for asylum seekers – all helped increase the sense of community between refugees and local residents.
“We wanted to improve our ability to contribute to a more inclusive society within the schools, but also at the local, regional and national level,” says Ingegerd Akselsson Le Douaron, the project manager.
“Creating concrete and meaningful activities together can lead to new and better ways to meet our challenges. In our society, especially within the EU, there is too much focus on competition and individual achievements and not enough attention on the importance of cooperation.”
A quick look at the statistics shows that increasing migration levels are reflected also in folk high schools. Around 30% of learners enrolled in second chance courses were born outside Sweden, and some migrant students have already been victims of xenophobia. Conflicts at school seem to represent a touchstone of the Swedish public life, where far right parties draw growing support.
“Swedish folk high schools can gain visibility as important actors in a country that has hosted and will host people who need a new home country,” says Ingegerd.
Ingegerd also points out that as folk high schools benefit from public funding, their activities are generally more sustainable. The sustainability was further assured by the fact that each partner school had to prepare an action plan for the future and the project itself opened up new opportunities for cooperation.
“Creating contacts and sustainable cooperation with NGOs in the local civil society was a big challenge,” Ingegerd tells EAEA. Thanks to a common effort, it greatly improved over time: “Only two of the participating folk high schools still had problems with it when the project ended,” says Ingegerd.
FOLAC estimates that during the second year the project reached around 12,000 people and involved 5,000 learners. All activities organized within the framework of the project aimed at bringing different people together, be it at a street market, sports event or democracy evening in a city suburb.
Ingegerd admits that involving the whole school in the project activities was far from easy. “Each course has its own study plan and its own goals. Yet still, many teachers managed to integrate the project activities in the everyday studies and that turned out to be very successful.”
The importance of sharing good practices was stressed throughout the project. The participating schools organized visits to learn from each other’s experiences; two national conferences were also held to a similar end. Thanks the knowledge and skills gained, FOLAC prepared a booklet of 66 good practices, now available online. It can be used as a source of information and inspiration for other like-minded organisations, with the activities easily transferable elsewhere.
“There is not one way to make it right, there are many,” says Ingegerd.
Text: Aleksandra Kozyra