“Older brothers” to support foreign students and help them overcome the difficulties leading to school failure and the consequent social distress. With this goal in mind, in the academic year 2013-2014 Fondazione L’Albero della Vita, in collaboration with the youth association “Mondinsieme Reporters”, launched the project “Tutors in the mother tongue” (Tutor in lingua madre) at the state-run vocational school specialising in trade “Filippo Re” in Reggio Emilia.

Personal experience as a start

It is far more than a simple mentoring and support programme. Selected tutors —properly trained by “Centro Culturale Mondinsieme” and Fondazione Patrizio Paoletti,— are, in fact, second-generation immigrants attending university. In other words, they have recently lived themselves the difficulties foreign students are currently facing at school. Consequently, they are able to establish a deeper relationship based on collaboration and trust and to even help teachers and families to better understand their difficulties.

Reggio Emilia, model city

Reggio Emilia is the ideal lab to test this innovative school support method. As a matter of fact, in Reggio Emilia:

  • 17% of residents are foreigners
  • 16.6% of students currently enrolled in school are foreigners (the Italian average is 7.5%)
  • foreign students’ rate of school failure is 28.5%, three times higher than Italian students’.

Barriers to overcome

Foreign students’ situations of distress is visible especially during the first two years of high school and in vocational schools, which are the ones they generally attend. This is why the project “Tutors in the mother tongue” has been activated at the vocational school “Filippo Re”, one of the most affected by this phenomenon, which often translates into early school leaving and the consequent distress students live because of the more limited opportunities and the feeling of exclusion from school and employment

Young tutors for 40 students

In this framework, the experience of the association Mondinsieme —made of university students of different nationalities and promoting foreigners’ social integration and participation— is a very effective tool. The key lies in the deep knowledge of the topic and of the area, allowing to connect all the subjects involved. Selected tutors deal with 40 young people attending the school “Filippo RE”, which have been selected due to their higher risk of early school leaving. The programme aims at:

  • supporting students with a personalised mentoring activity, allowing them to become more self-confident and find the most suitable school path according to their characteristics
  • providing teachers with precise information about the phenomenon of early school leaving among foreign students in order to come up with effective intervention strategies to overcome this phenomenon within the school
  • becoming intercultural mediators towards students’ families of origin, offering them the educational skill set to support their children.

Best practice to export

The short-term objective of the project “Tutors in the mother tongue” is to guarantee that at least 60% of the involved students pass the school year . On the long term, instead, the desired result is far more ambitious. By training on the field at least 7 tutors and 10 teachers and monitoring the trend and the dissemination of the initiative’s results, this kind of support should become a defined and long-lasting tool to be exported at first to other local schools in Reggio Emilia and later beyond this Italian province.

How you can help

With a donation you can help young people in need to overcome their school problems.