By Solange Ariel Andrea Santarelli, Konstantina Olioumtsevits, and Jasmijn Bosch
The members of Multimind’s work package 6, focusing on multilingualism in migration settings, met in Palermo from 13th to 16th September 2021. During this work package meeting, we visited several schools and organisations working with migrants, worked on a collaborative project, and presented our ongoing research.
First of all, we had the opportunity to visit CPIA (Provincial Centre for Adult Education) Nelson Mandela. CPIA are state schools that offer education services and activities to Italian and foreign students aged sixteen and above, aiming to encourage the personal, cultural, social and economic growth of all citizens. In 2018, 90% of the students attending CPIA’s classes in Palermo were foreigners, both long-term non-native speaker residents and migrants, and till today they represent the majority of students attending this kind of school. Particularly, CPIA Nelson Mandela is the main beneficiary of the research project of Solange Santarelli (ESR13) as well as the non-academic organisation where her research is conducted. During our visit to CPIA, we held a meeting with the director, Giuseppina Sorce, and several teachers of the school to present our projects and some preliminary findings. Furthermore, Professor Federico Faloppa, the leader of WP6, presented a research paper on multilingualism (“Is Multilingualism the key competence?”), a targeted study on multilingualism among the partner organisations of the Key-Co System Project, in which CPIA was also involved (the paper can be downloaded here: https://www.keycosystem.eu/research-paper-on-multilingualism/). During the meeting, we had the chance for fruitful exchanges with the teachers, about their personal experiences teaching in multilingual and multi-level classrooms, as well as the difficulties educators might encounter while teaching multilingual students with a migration background.
We also presented the projects of WP6 at ItaStra, the Italian School for Foreigners of the University of Palermo led by the sociolinguist Professor Mari d’Agostino. It was an interesting occasion to exchange ideas on our projects and our research topics at large. The ItaStra team also presented their latest project (“Con lo sguardo di chi arriva’ or ‘From the view of who arrives’): a series of storytelling and communication workshops for newly arrived migrants. The first aim of the workshops is to look at the city of Palermo from the perspective of a migrant, in order to conduct an ethnolinguistic study of this city. At the same time, the project aims to give newly arrived migrants the opportunity to discover new places in the city, after having spent months in reception centres or on the streets under the restrictions imposed due to Covid-19 pandemic. At the end of their presentations, the ItaStra team took us on a sociolinguistic tour of the city centre of Palermo, in search of traces of different languages, together with a group of young migrants. The tour ended with a visit to Centro Astalli, a reception Centre for migrants and an association for the defence of human rights, which offers several services to protect vulnerable people, striving for the inclusion of migrants in the host society.
Moreover, we had the opportunity to talk with Alice Argento, a lawyer who works for CLEDU, the Legal Clinic for Human Rights of the Faculty of Law of the University of Palermo. CLEDU offers legal support to migrants and helps them prepare for the meeting with the Territorial Commission to which they have presented their request for asylum or a residence permit. We also had a meeting with Fausto Melluso, a representative of Palermo City Council and the former President of the association Arci Porco Rosso, an association which is located in Ballarò, a working class area of Palermo where people are at high risk of social exclusion, and which is open to anyone who seeks for help. Arci Porco Rosso fights for the defence of human rights and the freedom of movement, and against racism in any form.
During our stay in Palermo, we also had the chance for several internal meetings, in which we discussed the general progress in our work package and our training needs. We also worked on our collaborative research project, in which we investigate Italian, Greek and Dutch primary school teachers’ attitudes toward multilingualism and their experiences teaching in multilingual classrooms. Finally, we brainstormed about possible future workshops that we could organise for different groups of teachers, to provide training regarding translanguaging approaches and multilingualism in the classroom.
All in all, this work package meeting has not only been very productive, but it has also been a very inspiring experience, in which we had the opportunity to communicate our work to different stakeholders, while we learned about the reality of the life of migrants in Palermo. We thank the several organisations that welcomed us for this valuable exchange.