Eliminating prejudice against migrants and other minority groups via network of informend volunteers

There are over 200.000 foreign residents living in countries of V4. In recent years the number has increased. The migration trend leads to greater cultural and religious diversity, and according to various surveys, the majority of host societies does not have enough relevant information on migrants. Hostile political stance and negative portrays of migrants in the media further contributes to increased negative stereotypes, fear, and prejudice. We also are aware that formal education doesn’t have the relevant space needed to focus on the subject due to various reasons or doesn’t want to focus on such issues due to its sensitivity.We recognize the gap, its challenges, and see the potential of the work of civil society, non-governmental organization to take the role and positively influence.

The project objective is to build the awareness and to promote positive aspects of a cultural diversity among young volunteers via workshops and open discussions platforms. This educational experience is build in a way that further encourages volunteers‘ involvement in passing the message onto selected groups of young children. Overall goal of the project is therefore to integrate the multicultural tolerance into the formal education in form of non-formal teaching.

 

Survey for tolerance for differences

During the month of September 2017, we had conducted a survey on tolerance for differences at four (4) primary schools in the Nitra region. There had been 120 students participating on the survey. The age group of these participants was set for 11 – 12 years old primary school students. There had been several aims of this research, one of them being to narrow the selection for type of schools that may be preferably selected for the implementation phase of the project of Eliminating prejudice against migrants and other minority groups via network of informed volunteers. Therefore selected schools for survey varied and included two urban schools – one with the larger representation of minority group, specifically Roma children – one rural school, and one specialized school for students of 8-year gymnasium.

The survey was presented with following results:

More then 50% of student respondents is aware of groups and people that are discriminated in Slovakia, however only 19% have a personal knowledge of these individuals or population groups that experience discrimination of a large scale. It is interesting that 60% believes that discrimination is not concerning their peers. This had been demonstrated in several responds, when student respondents considered a employment discrimination as the most common type of discrimination – meaning that person is experiencing discrimination and disadvantage when applying for work placement.

Roma population is the population group that is perceived negatively by student respondents (58%), in comparison to other population groups such Muslims (43%), homosexuals (43%), refugees (51%). These differences, however, we do not consider as significant. The second most negatively perceived population group are refugees. This is considered to be a consequence of the media influence, since none of the student respondents have personal encounter with members of refugee population.

Only 23% of the respondents experienced discrimination on personal level, but it is possible that the concept of disadvantaged groups overlaps only with the above-mentioned groups. The question related to why a some population groups are disadvantaged and discriminated, most respondents either did not respond or referred to Roma population.  The exceptions were three (3) student respondents, who additionally mentioned obesity, physical disability, or better study score as a reason for disadvantage and discrimination. Surprisingly, as many as 48% of respondents would support the Roma child, who was rejected to participate on team game, particularly the Roma child, “who was not selected for football game”. We believe that by approximating the real situation that this age group can relate to, we are able to navigate the attitude of young population towards a greater tolerance.

The most significant differences in association of different types of schools were documented in the eight-year gymnasium school. Based on responds it seemed that in this particular school the awareness related to discrimination is stronger then in other schools, and the students have larger exposure to role-play activities focusing particularly on discrimination. On the other hand, these same students demonstrated the negative attitude on larger scale, when presenting the pair of statements related to discrimination. For example, the negative attitude of students was presented with statement such: “Refugees are people, who come from countries with undemocratic regimes and therefore we should allow them to find a dignified life in Slovakia” vs. “Refugees are a potential threat to our country. We should not create conditions for them to settle there.” At the same time, up to 82% of these respondents did not personally face any form of discrimination. It would be possible to interpret this result by the fact that these students come from a privileged background and if, in general, people who have been verbally or physically challenged for some reason are more sensitive to the disadvantages and discrimination of different groups, even if themselves were attacked for another reason, it is harder for this group to feel in the situation of disadvantaged individuals.

Comparing the urban vs. rural environments, there was more pronounced negative attitudes towards homosexuals and refugees among students from rural schools in comparison to students from urban schools. It is also noteworthy that at a school, where the proportion of Roma students is high, up to 93% of student respondents said they did not remember any activity organized by school related to negative aspects of racism, discrimination, or intolerance.

Conclusion:

Due to no particular activities generally conducted by any of schools, there is a possibility for many such activities aimed at improving the perception of discrimination and tolerance in Slovakia. However, we assume that innovative activities should be presented in informal manner and intrusive of emotional component of the personality; based on the finding that empathy must first be established in order to navigate and change negative attitudes towards various population groups. Our workshop, and consequently a spread of awareness at schools, will be focused on the personal stories of people, simulation games and role-playing games in the framework of experiential learning, in order to increase the sensitivity and knowledge of young people in the perception of discrimination, prejudices, and stereotypes.

Since there was no significant difference demonstrated based on various types of schools, we will not pay special attention to preferences of future work and project implementation for volunteers.

 

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