DIALECTICS OF INCLUSION IN A EUROPEAN MULTICULTURAL EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

M. Ioannidou, S. Mitakidou, E. Tressou

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (GREECE)
In ancient Greece, hospitality was an act of virtue. Xenios Zeus was the god of hospitality and protected ξένοι [xénos] (=alien, foreigner). It was a sacred duty to welcome, protect and care for foreigners while mistreating foreigners was considered a sin. Social and class barriers were abolished through hospitality, as both rich and poor, noble and commoners were entitled to hospitality. In this sense, welcoming refugees to Greece nowadays is simply continuing an ancient tradition. Following the ancient thread, the programme “KA2 – Managing the refugee and migrant flows through the development of educational and vocational frames for children and adults” was developed.
The paper aims to present the Welcome Guide for Refugee Children created in the framework of this action and to examine what culture can do as a companion to education and learning in times of wider societal crisis, when the fabric of society is itself at risk. The Guide is created as a paradigm for our partner organizations in other countries and sets as one of its main goals to reinforce meaningful relationships and peaceful, cohesive societies.

Our Welcome Guide is addressed to refugee children aged 6-15 and aims to acquaint them with the wider area of their current host country. The Welcome Guide aspires to be a hospitable and friendly introduction to the city of Thessaloniki (Thessaloniki being the paradigm for any city), but also the threshold to the children’s sensitization and initiation to the Greek culture and language. It is offered in a bilingual EL/EN interactive platform, translated in Arabic as well, fusing novelty pedagogic methods and technology. Informed by the theory of literacy development in a second or foreign language, written texts are supported by various visual and sound complements to facilitate children in identifying and associating concepts with words; short texts are expanded and serve as the basis for the educational material. Cultural heritage, artifacts and the arts serve as a reservoir of ‘unofficial’ knowledge and as a different, more stimulating and self-energizing environment offer different ways of learning, benefiting migrant children and their families who are struggling in formal education for various reasons, one of which is intercultural conflicts.

The purpose of this Welcome Guide is to contribute to a wider understanding of how multicultural and socially sensitive education can help to build students’ understanding of their own place in history and emphasize the capacity and ability of all human beings, including those who have been culturally degraded, politically oppressed, and economically exploited.