Photo: OPU A group of 21 children has been quite busy in the recent months….More
Text: Petr Syrový
Photo: Prague 13
About ten years ago, we were thinking whether to join what was called emergency projects of the Ministry of the Interior – projects focused on the integration of foreigners from the third countries. Back then, we had no idea that this issue would become hotter every year and that we would work on the project for so long.
Our decision to join in meant that we had to quite significantly change our style of work. Everyone who has ever worked in the public sphere probably knows how “easy” it is to introduce a new topic – especially when it requires extra capacities and finances.
However, demography was on our side. The Czech Republic, Prague, and Prague 13 alike have become a new home for foreigners coming mostly from Ukraine, Russia, and the former Soviet republics. The essence of the current projects of municipalities is to create conditions and measures on the local level, which promote mutual coexistence and also reflect emerging issues if there are any. The projects need to be comprehensive.
Our very first project in 2010 consisted of fifteen sub-projects. These were measures classified based on four priorities: education, awareness, field monitoring, and leisure time. We have been actively developing some of the priorities and most of the projects until today. This year, there are seventeen sub-projects in our project. Of course, we did not aim at making all schools, kindergartens, and local and reference integration stakeholders join the project immediately. We decided to follow the step-by-step method and to focus on what works and not to waste energy on something that does not work. We started cooperation with some of our elementary schools and their projects and contacted several NGOs – there were already a plenty of them in Prague. Thanks to the education department, we had access to information about the number of children at schools and kindergartens and therefore we knew which of them were attended by foreigners. Today, in our project there are actually only four elementary schools out of eleven and seven kindergartens out of twenty-three in the administrative district of Prague 13.
The education priority means that we directly support children with a different mother tongue (DMT) in the form of extra classes throughout the school year and holiday courses, and also that we educate schoolteachers (on how to teach foreigners Czech), clerks, policemen, and officers. In cooperation with the Centre for the Integration of Foreigners we have launched low-threshold classes of Czech for adults. The course is provided in three language levels (A0, A1, and A2/B1) several times a week. We also have another NGO partner who provides education to adult foreigners – the Integration Centre Prague. They have an office near the Lužiny metro station where they provide social and legal counselling to foreigners. The Integration Centre also holds conversation courses at the Lužiny branch of the Municipal Library. We provide teachers the opportunity to study the Two-semester Improvement Course of Czech as a Foreign Language which is organised by the Institute for Language and Preparatory Studies, Charles University in Prague. Another NGO, META – Association for Opportunities of Young Migrants, provides methodical support to kindergarten teachers.
Within the leisure time priority area, we have been regularly organising the We Are Not Strangers community event. It is an open-air music festival which also offers children’s theatre, experiential and creative workshops. We arrange children’s theatre performances at kindergartens and we offer educational programmes in the form of the theatre forum to elementary schools. The Divadelta association plays the New Schoolmate or the Last Coin performance to school classes. Children can get involved in the story and influence it. The leisure time club Rozmanitý svět (Diverse Word) is our long-term sub-project for children from the Trávníčkova Faculty Elementary School. The club offers children sightseeing trips combined with extra classes. Letem světem (Busy Busy World) is an interesting activity for children which enables children from the Stodůlky Houses of Children and Young People with various interests to get to know cultures of their countries of origin.
An important measure of the regional support priority is the communication and coordination platform of the Integration Working Group which brings together direct sub-projects implementers, especially kindergarten and school teachers and representatives of NGOs. This is where the new concept of the approved project is presented and where people consult their experience, ideas, and suggestions for its future development.
We publish an information leaflet in five languages, and provide information about the integration of foreigners on the official website of the city district to raise awareness of the Prague 13 inhabitants. Based on the nature of the event, we also use other information channels, for example Prague 13’s STOP magazine, the Šťastná třináctka (Lucky Thirteen) Facebook profile, and TV 13.
The project is constantly evolving and it is adjusted every year. It is refined to reflect the current reality. For example last year we added a new priority focused on community work in the area. In cooperation with the Nová škola NGO, we are now planning a new sub-project Together in the Library, which is low-threshold assistance with school preparation in the Municipal Library.
For autumn we are planning the annual meeting of municipalities involved in the municipalities project, which is the last addition to the project. We assume that together we will reflect on the field and community work with foreigners.
At the beginning I mentioned what helped us with the implementation of the project. It needs to be said that it was not only demography but also our enthusiasm and cooperation with all stakeholders and sub-project implementers, the support of the city district management, and, last but not least, the regular subsidy in the amount of 90% of the costs from the Ministry of the Interior.