25 SES 09 A, Mixed Issues - Aesthetics, Justice and Rights Language
It is becoming increasingly accepted that early years’ provision and education are the foundation for development and learning throughout life. The top-level authorities in all European countries have issued official guidelines to ensure that Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings have an intentional educational component (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2019), which is aimed at and involving children, but also their families (European Commission, 2019). The Covid-19 pandemic has compromised the right to personal and social development (art. 29, CRC, 1989) for many children. The halt imposed by the pandemic and the consequent socio-economic problems affected a situation that is already critical as far as the challenge of “an inclusive and equitable quality education” is concerned, especially for early childhood (SDG 4, UN, 2015). As a result of the health emergency, a majority of countries announced the temporary closure of schools and childcare services, impacting more than 91% of students worldwide (UN, 2020a). The drastic limitations in access to essential educational services and fundamental rights affect all age groups and all social classes, but in particular minors who are already in conditions of social, economic and cultural disadvantage (UN, 2020b). The “digital divide” (Van Lancker & Parolin, 2020) of many families and the lack of alternative responses to ordinary school ends up increasing the vulnerability and invisibility of many children (and their families), depriving them not only of the right to education, but also “of orientations and value perspectives” (Milani, 2020, p. 449), essential for the development of a critical consciousness (Freire, 1976) and at the basis of the fundamental rights of citizenship (Moss, 2019). In Italy, where the rates of material and educational poverty of minors were among the highest in Europe (Openpolis, 2019), the effects of the economic crisis and the limitation of formal and informal educational opportunities pose an alert. It is estimated that child poverty could rise rapidly from 12 to 20%, leading millions of children to educational poverty (Save the Children, 2020a) and increasing the level of educational inequality. For many families, the cultural means available to guarantee an adequate path of educational accompaniment for their children have ceased to exist or have been considerably reduced. Especially for mothers, the lack of access to territorial educational services, the lockdown and the consequent reorganization of work have increased the difficulty of reconciling work and parenting (Save the Children, 2020b), making the mother-child relationship problematic and compromising the possibility of a quality education (Peeters, Sharmahd, & Budginaite, 2017; Sansavini, Trombini & Guarini, 2020).
This contribution will focus on the perspectives of both mothers and educators in informal educational services 0-6. They are, in fact, less considered in the emergency period by welfare measures and policies and less investigated by literature in Italy. The aim is to understand how the educational change imposed by the pandemic is perceived by those who attend these spaces, and to analyze the educational issues that are essential to build a qualitative inclusive educational project. We will consider how it is possible today to redefine education and care services for children as places of real social and educational inclusion.
Starting from a wider research project that is taking place in the informal educational services 0-6 of Save the children in Turin (Italy), this paper provides a critical discourse analysis on children’s rights at the time of Covid-19, investigating these aspects:
1) How have mothers and educators perceived the suspension of educational services during the lockdown?
2) According to them, what are the most critical pedagogical themes that have emerged?
3) Which pedagogical proposals can be built together to make 0-6 services inclusive, equitable and qualitative?
Given the fluid nature of the method and the strong social criticality linked to the emergency, we have collected data up to the achievement of a saturation to elaborate operational proposals and reference models and we have adopted a circular research model to promote an enrichment of theory through practice. Our research adopts a circular model, flexible and open to complexity provided by the grounded theory approach (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Honerød Hoveid, Ciolan, Paseka, & Marques Da Silva, 2019) for which knowledge is developed through scientific processes, working in the field through the emerging data and working with the people involved in the research (mothers and educators). As part of the project “Educational poverty and Covid-19: pedagogical reflection and advocacy lines for minors” (University of Turin - Save the Childen Italia Onlus, PI Lorena Milani), we focus on two phases: 1. Our reflections arise from confrontation with Save the Children educators engaged in supporting children at risk of social and educational exclusion and their families during the emergency. Children live in a peripheral district, in Turin, in structural situations of poverty and marginalisation. Our paper is based on multimodal critical analysis and adopts the form of co-analysis with the participants. The first phase of the research process started in April 2020 and culminated in July 2020 in the elaboration of an educational frame and some educational proposals to support the work with children (0-6) in relationship with their mothers. 2. The second phase - which is underway - provides for a new analysis of the situation of children and their mothers in relation to some issues identified (in phase 1) as fundamental to fight against educational poverty in this historical moment: relationship, corporeality, nature, information and right to speak. Our data are collected from different angles, meeting: - the interpretations of the educator collected through periodic exchanges; - semi-structured interviews with the mothers of the children involved in the activities; - analysis of reports and documents made available by Save the Children.
Findings provide us with a complex scenario of the discomfort experienced by mothers during and after the period of isolation (Save the Children, 2020b). The mothers who were interviewed reveal: - a profound state of psychological and emotional malaise; - difficulties in facing the new educational challenges in the relationship with their children; - sense of inadequacy and ineffectiveness in taking care; - high levels of concern and anxiety about their children’s and their own health; - an increase of children's aggressive attitudes, crying and requests for attention; - a halt in the development path or, in some cases, a regression in evolutionary terms. Being in dialogue with educators and mothers made it possible to elaborate some lines of work for a re-appropriation of relations and corporeality for early childhood in family and in educational services at the time of Covid-19. This exchange developed relations between university and the local area for a collaborative commitment to the common good. Our pedagogical-educational project is centred on the needs of promoting children’s rights (right to play, education, Nature and environment) through an “integrating background” (Zanelli, 1986) which gave birth to a playful-fantastic dimension as a way of relating between educators/mothers and children. Both educators and families appreciated the development of the device and tested the proposed activities, evaluating the educational contribution. The criticalities identified emerged in relation to the changes in the legal provision on physical spacing and the use of common materials. Research is in progress and the social situation is constantly changing. The flexibility of our frame is therefore essential to cope with the evolution of the context and to continue “learning to learn” together and develop “civic democratic competences” (European Commission, 2006).
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