14 SES 03 B, Family Education, Engagement and Participation to Transform Education
Isolated and enclaved within their community and ethnic group, the Roma immigrants in France who live in informal habitats like slums and squats are perceived to be immigrants who cannot be integrated in the French society. Notwithstanding their presence on the French soil for many years, they are systematically the victims of evacuations and expulsions towards their country of origin. This strategy of removal of an unwanted population of migrants has proved to be completely inefficient as the number of Roma immigrants in France has doubled since 2007. These measures are both in non-compliance to the fundamental rights of European citizens in terms of their freedom of movement within the European Union territories and they put a cap on the Roma’s chances to a successful integration due to the successive de-schoolings their children suffer, their loss of jobs and social markers. The Roma’s exclusion from being able to participate in all social spheres in their country of immigration strengthens their isolation and enclosure inside their own community and increases their systematic rejection of widespread social values. In this context, the Roma children’s schooling raises fundamental questions because the school as an institution can be a social lever toward not only social mobility, but also to enable them to cross the borders of their community and integrate society.
Roma children who have been enrolled in French schools and who managed to walk a part of the path of education on the benches of French academic institutions are a point of interrogation. It is important to highlight how academic participation can forge the child’s identity and how the assimilation of the society’s norms and values that the school upholds can aid in breaking down the barriers of their community and open up the way to integration. Hence, this study focuses on the difficulties that they have to face on this path and the consequences to going from community isolation to educational integration.
The community, in the classical sense of the term, is a traditional form of organisation characterized by the proximity and homogeneity of social relations and founded on a natural will that connects the individual to the group. It is the opposite of the society, which is founded on a rational and reflected will that determines social relations. By creating a space of interaction outside the community group, the school enables the establishment of new social connections and becomes a bridge between the community and society. Interactions with the society at large change the community barriers and the identity content, which implies a double challenge. First of all, without the proper care and coordination of schooled children, these changes can lead to the child’s rejection of the new norms and values he is taught and an increased fall-back to his own community. Second, the assimilation of new social rules can lead to the rejection of their own community’s rules and to the child’s stigmatisation and marginalisation within his own group. However, the greatest challenge is that this transition is a child-school and child-parent interaction process and a balance between the changes in the child’s old and new identity has to be achieved.
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