Roma’s S.M.I.L.E. Project. Supporting motivations to Intervene on Learning and Experience
Implementation period: November 2013 – November 2015
The Roma’s S.M.I.L.E. Project it was led by Fondazione Villa Montesca (Italy) in collaboration with other 5 organisations: the BHA (UK); the Italian Gypsy Association TODAY AIZO (Italy); the Municipality of Koprivnica (Croatia); ADRA BULGARIA Foundation (Bulgaria) and the European Office of Information on Roma – ERIO (Belgium). The S.M.I.L.E. project key objective was to establish formal cooperation between the communities in which students live and institutions or associations, both Roma and gadje, which are considered as reference points in student education. The idea of the whole project is to approach the problem in a holistic manner through the establishment of educational community that will actively provide concrete answers and solutions to problems.
One of the main areas of S.M.I.L.E. was to support the primary schools in their effort of involving Roma students, creating a welcoming learning environment for the Roma children and families and developing a sense of community through the foundation of a new spirit of Community feeling, based on the concept of “prosociality”. Each student depends on the other group members to successfully complete the task. This feature fosters the power of positive peer interactions-students are motivated to achieve at a high level because their classmates are depending on them. As students teach and learn from each other, the students who are modeling the thinking process must actively reflect on the strategies they are using to solve problems. Social and cognitive skills operate jointly in the real world that exists outside the classroom; they need to be practiced together in the classroom.
One of the key activities conducted by The BHA in the UK was to deliver several Teachers Training sessions. The sessions were carried out with a group of young, newly-qualified, teachers aged between 20 and 22 at a primary school in North Manchester with a significant number of Roma pupils. Likewise, another activity was related with the in-class support by a Teaching Assistant with Roma pupils. The worker has participated in meetings with school staff and parents to discuss language support and to support mediation between parents and the School Attendance Team. One practical outcome has been translating the school’s Attendance Policy into Romani, Bulgarian and Spanish this is used to assist parents who cannot read English and is available in printed form and on the school’s web-site. Another activity is related with the out home visits to parents to discuss registration, school application and attendance.
In order to support the objectives of the wider project, a Community Based Participatory Research was developed in order to explore and assess:
- Identification of the cultural causes of prejudices;
- Mutual perception of childhood;
- Adults’ idea about school as a socialization and education environment.
The main goal of this research was to ensure the needed knowledge about the historical and social background of the final beneficiaries – Roma and Gage communities, to measure their attitudes and recommend a mediation strategy.
Within this project has been produced the project’s S.M.I.L.E. Manual for Educators. The Manual is specifically addressed to social actors, especially to teachers, social operators, policy makers and public representatives, Roma and Gadje. The Manual draws attention to the often difficult debate of building a list of concrete measures or what we have defined as “community of concrete answers”. This manual intends to support the primary schools in their effort to create a welcoming learning environment for the Roma children and families, by developing a sense of community through establishing a new communal spirit based on the concept of prosociality. Creating a prosocial environment in schools determines an opportunity to develop or reinforce the basic skills in Roma students.
The Manual also contains the Documentary “ROOMS”. ROOMS is a documentary that shows the life and culture of the Roma through concrete situations and social examples. By enacting the dialogue, the meeting and the exchange of points of view between Roma and non-Roma, the documentary will allow all viewers to deepen their knowledge about the complex reality of the Roma community. The viewers will see a community, not exempt from strong prejudices by the Western society, to promote and strengthen the possible forms of cohabitation.
Roma’s Smile. Educative measures for fostering education and inclusion of Roma children based on prosociality, October 2015
Edited by Fabrizio Boldrini, Maria Rita Bracchini
Documentary movie: ROOMS, Director: Alfredo Federico, Writers: Alfredo Federico and Alessandro di Nuzzo
Editor: Alessandro Minestrini
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. Lifelong Learning Programme KA1 Policy Co-operation