Reflections from the ‘’Little School’’

This activity, implemented in collaboration with a local grassroots initiative called Scuolina di Poggio alla Croce (Poggio alla Croce Little School), has allowed young asylum seekers and refugees (hosted in local Reception Centres or present on the territory) to continue to follow lessons of Italian language after the restrictions caused by the  Covid-19 pandemic.

The lessons which before took place face to face, have be re-located in a virtual space, using the free platform Jitsi Meet and following the Penny Wirton methodology (one-to-one lessons).

Thanks to the contribution of the Bridges project, the “Little School”, has been provided of computers in order to strengthen the tools of the teachers who are working digitally with the students day in and day out. These computers will then remain as a donation to the Little School as soon as the live lessons resume and will provide a fundamental support moving forward.

The volunteer teachers of Italian Language were first confronted with the challenge of online work, elaborating on the use of the internet at online platforms, discovering ways to effectively relate and work while social distance was in effect, so that these distances remained physical and not social.

For example, during the weeks of isolation and distancing Ramadan took place. This marked and impacted the lives of many students of the Little School for an entire month. The lessons thus became a moment for a deeper reflection, beyond simply teaching and learning Italian and instead, using language to share impressions on the special moment in time in which these individuals were living. ‘’There are many moments during the day in which you must stop what you are doing and pray. For 15 hours a day you do not eat or drink’’ states Yacouba, a Malian student of Katherine.

On the other hand, Boukhadry of Senegal tells us about the Muslim Pro app, which he uses to help himself with reading or listening the Koran and to organize his time around prayers. Mamadou instead teaches Sarah how to wish a happy Ramadan in his language: ‘’Ramadan Mubarak’’.

During the Italian lessons, life experiences and daily struggles which teachers and students are facing every day combine and come to light. These classes thus serve as an additional tool to find jobs or access social service help and economic subsidies while simultaneously learning technical language terms to better understand Italian bureaucracy.

These lessons also bring to the light shared passions and interest as stated by Katherine, referring to her classes with Yacouba: “I discovered that he too enjoys running exercise for half an hour a day. Also, like me he loves chicken and rice. Perhaps the thing we have most in common is the passion of traveling fueled by the ambition to discover new places and have new experiences that help us grow as people’’. In his long trip to Italy, which began 7 years ago, Yacouba lived in a plethora of African countries including Algeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. In many of these countries he stopped to work for several months, in others he instead just passed by.

In these ways and others, the lessons are continuing and have allowed to cultivate a sense of community and closeness, even during forced quarantine. This is due to the fact the Little School is not only an Italian school but moreover a space for sharing ideas, opinions and knowledge: the beginning of encounters and the building of #bridges!