SCHOOL OBLIGATION AND ITINERANT LIFE: DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED BY THE FAMILIES OF FAIRGROUND WORKERS IN THE FRENCH-SPEAKING PART OF BELGIUM
About this paper:
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:In Belgium, school education is compulsory until the age of 18. It is also a fundamental right to which every child should have access (Delchambre, 1991). Moreover, the Belgian education system allows parents to choose the education they want for their children (de Bouttemont, 2004). However, this system is still marked by inequalities, especially for children from itinerant families. Despite the increase in the number of enrolment requests among these populations (Chartier, 2011; Meunier, 2007), their school integration remains indeed complex, as they are still subject to many stereotypes and prejudices (Alvarado Solís, 2015; Reyniers, 2003). In addition, the family's mobility makes the school follow-up of these children complicated. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to identify the difficulties encountered by itinerant families during the schooling of their children in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (WBF). More precisely, we focused our work on the families of fairground workers for whom there is no data in the literature.
In our research, twelve parents from the fairground background were interviewed. All of them lived and worked in the French-speaking part of Belgium and had at least one child schooled in WBF. In order to collect our data, three tools were used. The first was a datasheet to compile the factual elements characterizing the subjects. The second was based on a life narrative method in which the parent talked about his or her personal school experience. The last one is an oral questionnaire built around three themes: the difficulties experienced by the parents during their children's schooling, the issues/goals of education, and the solutions they suggested to improve the relationship to school in their community and the school follow-up of their children.
The main results of our study underline the fact that the majority of itinerant parents are positive about the schooling of their children. Schooling is perceived as a professional and personal asset for the child, but it also contributes to the development of the community. However, it also shows that the school as it is organized in WBF does not sufficiently take into account the lifestyle of the fairground workers. Indeed, the school hours and the school calendar are not adapted to them. Parents are sometimes forced to travel long distances so that their children can continue to attend the same school. This often leads to significant fatigue among family members, which can negatively impact the attention and dynamism of these students in class. In addition, the fairground workers often work during the official vacation periods, which can again hinder the proper attendance of classes. Finally, among the solutions proposed by these parents to facilitate the schooling of their children, we note the interest in creating an official digital platform. This would make it possible to follow the courses, either through a full distance learning, or a hybrid learning formula in order to have greater flexibility of schedules.
Keywords: School Education, Children from itinerant families, Fairground workers, School difficulties.