Supporting Assistance Facilities And Recreational Activities For The Immigrant Families Of Mazara Del Vallo, Sicily

Project location: ITALY, Mazara Del Vallo, Sicily
Project start date: September 2014 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 2014-044
Beneficiary: Associazione Casa della Comunità Speranza

Time span for this report: fFrom October 2014 to June 2015

During the school term 2014/2015, the Association “Casa della Comunità Speranza” (mentioned as Association from now on), in compliance with the project contents, has scheduled and implemented extra tuition and homework support (mentioned as “support activities” from now on) for 2nd- or 3rd generation immigrant pupils and students in local primary and secondary schools. At the beginning of the school term, tuition and introductory orientation has been offered to both, pupils/students and their parents. After conclusion of the inscriptions, according to the Association’s capacities, criteria have been defined for the allocation of the staff (employed workers and volunteers) in order to match the pupils/students’ individual needs and school- and school class backgrounds.
Due to the large number of the registered pupils/students and the wide variety of their school- and school class origins, it was necessary to fit the support activities into two turns: Turn 1 from 3-5 p.m.; Turn 2 from 5-7 p.m.
One of the major problems common to the 150 pupils/students participating in the project is their poor knowledge and command of the Italian language, both written and spoken. As a consequence pupils/students also suffer difficulties in learning in further school subjects. For fighting these problems, the program experiments new means and methods for improving the command of vocabulary and language, including the utilization of innovative devices such as visual tools, interactive whiteboard and other IT devices.
Regarding human resources, they have been chosen on the basis of their individual skills and suitable preparation so as to strengthen quality, volume and effectiveness of the support activities.
The staff of the Association consists of 25 volunteers and 15 workers with a fixed-term contract. The support activities funded by the Nando Peretti Foundation have been carried out by 8 volunteers and 3 workers with a fixed-term contract.

The Association implements procedures for assessing the attendance of both, pupils/students and staff. Particular attention is given to keeping track of the individual work done with the pupils/students. In order to assess in detail and to improve the support activities and the results obtained by the pupils/students (including motivation aspects), the Association since long has adopted the following procedures of control and survey (monitoring):

  • Monitoring pupils/students’ attendance to the support activities. In case of repeated absence of a pupil/student their family will receive immediate notice.
  • Monitoring pupils/students’ school attendance at their schools of origin. The Association’s workers participate in the meetings held by the schools with the pupils/students parents (on the basis of official mutual agreements for that aspect).
  • Involving pupils/students’ parents in the Association’s support activities and, if necessary, in individual interventions focusing on behavioural problems (indiscipline, hyper-activity).
  • Monitoring staff (workers and volunteers) attendance.
  • Time sheet and support activity record for every pupil/student.
The project goals and the steps of their implementation have been scheduled in accordance with the calendar of the school year sessions (1st quarter or 1st 4-months-session, depending on whether primary or secondary school). Therefore, effects and results of the support activities carried out during December 2014 and January 2015 became visible through the school reports and school marks of the pupils and students. The Association’s staff were informed of school reports via the before-mentioned participation in the parents’ meetings at the schools.

In some situations, language and family problems, bad environment conditions and health problems may determine motivation problems and consequently bad school performance. The latter, in turn, may lead to the risk of weakening the pupil’s/student’s inclusion/integration in the class- and school environment. In such cases, the Association may decide to increase and to extend the individual support activities in order to actively contribute to the efforts for avoiding that the student would drop-out of school.
The Association considers the families of the pupils and students as a crucial reference point. In many cases families show only little initial involvement and interest in the school performance of their children. Therefore particular actions of building up parents’ awareness and follow-up are necessary in order to strengthen the pupils and students’ commitment to learning. Some families tend to be reluctant due to some cultural aspects, but generally speaking the dialogue between the Association and the families has become an established and acknowledged feature in the current social  reality in this neighborhood of the town.

Thanks to the project work the Association day after day succeeds in strengthening contacts and relations with the families of the pupils and students which take part in the support activities. In this the workers play an important role as they constantly mediate between the parts and partners with the purpose to close-up the distances between the school system and the families.
Experience has given evidence that enlarged meetings among the families do not provide the expected results since there is some reluctance to sharing and discussing publicly school-related and behavourial problems of their kids. On the contrary, individual meetings with the families have provided more positive results and families become aware, acknowledge and appreciate the benefits their children are able to obtain from the activities offered by the Association “Casa Comunità Speranza”.
The local community together with the town authorities appreciate the school support project for immigrant students because it operates in a high-density area and provides for the education and social integration. For this reason, Casa della Comunità Speranza was object of study by training institutions with the aim to assist future operators and workers.

The project and program work of extra tuition and homework support proves to be an efficient mean for preventing school drop-out and related consequent risks for the young to enter drug- and other illegal and violent milieus.
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