The 2nd year ESO teacher asked her students to read books and then summarize them in a small notebook. Génesis R. invested as much time in decorating and writing the reviews as in reading the stories themselves. He did not know that, once delivered, his teacher would end up walking his “reading journal” from class to class, showing it to the rest of the students and saying: “This is what I want from you.” And the girl, of course, passing the shame of the century.
Even less did she know that, over the years, that same teacher would have “determined”, in the words of Genesis, what she would like to do next. First study the career of Hispanic Philology and then be a teacher. “I had never considered being a teacher at an institute in Spain. I had no references for teachers like me. I had no black or other teacher,” she tells Verne.
Currently, this 26-year-old girl, who came to Spain at the age of three from Venezuela, is studying the enabling master’s degree that will allow her to teach in secondary schools. Meanwhile, he teaches the subject of Spanish Language and Literature, through an NGO, giving support classes to high school students in a Catholic school in the Carabanchel district (Madrid).
Foreign students in Spain have multiplied in recent years. If in 2001 the number of students without Spanish nationality enrolled in non-university studies was 141,868, now the figure has shot up to 797,618, according to the 2018-2019 progress of the Ministry of Education.
And Genesis knows that students of foreign origin don’t always have a good time at school. Remember the case of a classmate, originally from Ecuador, who was nicknamed “John Lenteja” in class. “It ended up becoming a mockery of the class and the teachers did nothing to prevent it,” he tells us.
In his personal case, Génesis remembers a time when his classmates from Primary sang the song of the conguitos to him because they told him that he looked like one. “This could have led to her being ultra-shy in part of primary and secondary school.” He also recalls that the teachers asked him about his origin: “They came to ask me in what percentage was Spanish,” she explains indignantly.
Génesis belongs to a generation of teachers who, in recent years, have been joining the teaching staff and who work to promote changes so that the educational system is more sensitive to students of immigrant origin.
Workers of foreign origin tend to have lower wages than Spanish workers, according to data from the latest Salary Structure Survey (in pdf). While a Spanish citizen earned an average of 24,116.92 euros per year, one with Latin American origin, for example, charges 15,035.12 euros.
This means that, in general, foreign students and children of immigrants (the latter already account for two out of every ten births in Spain in recent years) have to deal with the same problems at school as any student with low socioeconomic backgrounds, according to explains Rosa Aparicio, researcher of the study Growing up in Spain, integrating the children of immigrants, published in 2014 by Obra Social La Caixa. This includes a lack of educational resources or a lack of time or cultural level for parents to review their children’s homework.
Genesis gives an example of what happened at home. “There were classmates whose parents could help in some subjects but in my case it was not like that. I had many problems with Physics and Chemistry and my mother gave me a private teacher. I know that for her it was a great sacrifice. All that It makes me who I am today, “he explains now.
But, nevertheless, the children of immigrants also carry other difficulties of their own, since the educational system is not alien to the prejudices and stereotypes present in other areas of society. “Prejudices exist among the boys, but also in the teachers and the management of the centers,” says Rosa Aparicio.
As an example, the expert explains that, many times, among teachers it is assumed that immigrant students are less capable than the rest, which means that they are not helped enough or that they tend to refer to Vocational Training rather than to Baccalaureate, limiting many of your educational options.
Another study that draws attention to this type of disadvantage is entitled Immigration and education: the early performance problems of the children of immigrants which was published in 2013 by the think tank Barcelona Center for International Affairs (CIDOB). In it they indicate that the children of immigrants do not start from the same place with respect to the children of natives, neither economically nor academically. In fact, “all things being equal, for the same level of resources, the children of immigrants also get worse grades.”
Initiatives to overcome these disadvantages
Patricia Rocu Gómez is 47 years old, is a doctor and professor at the Faculty of Education of the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and participates in a research group on gender in physical activity and sport at the same university.
She, of an Equatorial Guinean father and a Spanish mother, has seen how there is more and more diversity in the educational environment. “Before it was not like that. Today there are more people who are accessing the university environment than when I was studying,” he says.
“It has its logic, if a few years ago there began to be that diversity in schools and institutes, today there are people who continue with higher studies.” Of course, this teacher clarifies that “inequalities continue to occur. In many cases the teachers do not see it because they are not yet aware. And, therefore, they do not question it.”
To combat these inequalities, Patricia Rocu presented a project, together with other Afro-descendant teachers and students, to the XIII Call for Development Assistance Projects of the UCM. The result of that project is the guide Strategies for Incorporating the Ethnic Perspective in College (in pdf), coordinated by Rocu herself, which was presented on March 21, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The objective of this guide is that future teachers and the entire educational community know the diversity that they will find in their classrooms and that they know how to identify the situations of discrimination that may occur in them. This guide is born from the effort of Rocu, who assures that he is not doing it “for activism, but for a matter of education.
In this work there are questions that both students and teachers themselves should ask themselves in situations that they would not consider racist at first. For example, wondering about the meaning of some common phrases that are heard, such as “working like a black”, or avoiding constantly questioning people about their skin color.
Researcher Rosa Aparicio also mentions other proposals to solve it. Some involve involving the parents of immigrant children in the educational system: “Let them know it and make them feel more secure to support their children.” Others go through the educational centers to better monitor possible discriminatory situations among students. And, furthermore, it reiterates the importance of training teachers so that they “realize their own prejudices.”
A new image of other countries
One of the goals that Fumilayo Johnson, 30, has in mind is for students to receive a more accurate view of other countries. In addition to teaching English in extracurricular classes in Primary and ESO, she also teaches reading and theater workshops and, through them, African history.
Like the Peruvian artist Victoria Pérez Santa Cruz, author of the poem “They shouted me black”, Fumilayo Johnson, in the 90s, was also told: “‘You, black.” And she came home crying. She was 7 years old when she realized that she was “the only black woman in the class” and that where she lived, in Guardamar del Segura (Alicante), there were not “many black families” either. All this made Fumilayo ask his mother “Where am I from, Mom?”
“There comes that moment in high school where you start to feel very confused because you wait for an answer in education, in school, in books … But you don’t find answers,” explains Fumilayo. “In class they didn’t tell us about Africa: a map and little else,” he explains.
It was at home where he learned African customs: music, food, dialect, where he learned that Equatorial Guinea, the country of his mother, had been a Spanish colony until 1968 and where he discovered African tales of oral tradition that are passed down from generation to generation. in generation and that she received them from her mother and her mother in turn from her great-grandmother.
Then it occurred to Fumilayo to translate all those teachings into a book, which he titled The tales of grandmother Chioma. “With these stories I am going to make the oral tradition come back and talk about Africa in schools,” he told himself.
Now he uses them in his workshops “as one more way to educate,” he says. Fumilayo is convinced that her effort will have been worth it if it succeeds in getting people to “stop asking me why I speak Spanish, stop thinking that we come because we feel like it and stop believing that Africa was discovered by Europe”, she concludes.
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