“The Place of the Child in School”. The conclusion is a priori obvious. However, in France children who are in a very difficult situation do not go to school. Youth “living in slums, squats or social hotels”, “unaccompanied minors”, “children of travelers”… Their family situations are varied. How to get these “dropouts” out of the school system? In a report presented on Wednesday, Deputy LREM for the Haute-Garonne Sandrine Mörch, who was entrusted by Prime Minister Jean Castex with a mission aimed at “identify brakes” to the education of these children, offers a number of measures. At the end of interviews with actors, in particular pedagogical ones, from the academies of Créteil and Toulouse, the mission led to an inventory “incomplete” but still has dignity “to give these invisibles a first glimpse of their existence and the difficulties they face” explained the deputy on Wednesday during the presentation of the report in the Assembly.
Out-of-school children comprise several categories of the population that are often difficult to count because they are mostly from mobile families with no permanent home. What they all have in common is that they are part of the 9 million people at risk identified in France. Yes “the social system in its present state cannot prevent the causes of poverty”, according to the report, “School is the key to breaking this chain.” Relevance is the collection of statistical data for a better understanding of the phenomenon.
These young people, aged 3 to 18, tend to have precarious or insecure housing. Until 2020, proof of residency was required to enroll at the school. The duty of families living in slums, homeless unaccompanied minors, children of travelers or those who are forced to live in slums. “forced nomadism” moved from a social hotel to a social hotel, could not perform. As a result, many of them were denied registration by the mayor’s office despite their right to education. So it was with Denisa. Arriving in France at the age of 5 with her parents and brother, the little girl quickly expressed her desire to go to school. Her case is rejected: she lives in the slums. “It took a whole year to get the necessary documents and be able to go to school, that is, a whole year of dropping out of school,” she testifies sixteen years later in a report.
Lack of supervision
For the last two years, registration is allowed upon presentation of a certificate from the parents certifying the place of residence. A measure that is not always respected by municipal officials, most often out of ignorance of the decree. In order to facilitate the admission of eligible children, Sandrine Mörch recommends, in particular, that training be provided on issues of great insecurity “so that agents can better understand that audience, and vice versa.”
Other difficulties limit these children’s access to school, and once registered, it is often difficult for them to continue their continuing education. This is partly due to deductions (which cause children to drop out of school for an average of six months) or even the cost of transport and the distance between the place of residence and school, in the case of mobile people. The report also points to a lack of out-of-school supervision, either because parents don’t understand how the education system works or because their living conditions don’t allow them to worry about it on a daily basis.
There are also many children who struggle to integrate and become victims of harassment. “For the first time, I was happy to go. All the gypsy children in the field were gathered into one class, […] but there was a lot of racism from other kids and some adults. It was complicated, says Roxanne, a resident of the Flambert slum in Toulouse. I was only in elementary school, I stopped when I went to college because I was afraid that there would be more racism.
To improve the situation of out-of-school children, the report highlights the need to unite social workers, associations and public services around a method of working together. Pooling resources to enable solutions “inexpensive”, not requiring “no change in law”.
Recommendations include: adherence to the January 25, 2018 Slum Circular, which requires social assessments to be conducted prior to eviction so that they do not interfere with children’s schooling; improved access to dining, extra-curricular and transportation facilities; strengthening UPE2A, these classes are specifically dedicated to allophone children; and an increase in the number of school mediators. According to the inter-ministerial delegation, 45 special posts of intermediaries for accommodation and access to housing are currently deployed. According to the information report, they are an important cog in the communication between administrative agents and families, and according to the information report, their skills will only benefit. Now it is up to the government to consider these proposals.