Mark Saey | Civiclab

Phase 1. Problem

Knowledge part

Raising involvement happened during the LVB class in which we read a note by a doctor telling of his round where he came across an organisation that works with undocumented migrants, and during an unforeseen and somewhat daring visit to a hunger strike of people without legal residence in Brussels. There we would also do the test interviews for the planned expo later that year.

The doctor’s note

‘This week I visited an organisation that works with “illegals”. I talked to the coordinator who has been working there for more than twenty years: the situation for undocumented migrants in the city is catastrophic. She calls it a real shame. Especially the stories surrounding illegality, the forgotten people of whom one doesn’t speak. The organisation works with them, gives them food packages, goes to their homes, tries to solve practical problems, … but feels powerless. The city systematically closes the squats these people are forced to live in. Taps for drinking water are being removed or closed off, families with children live in the most abominable conditions. Especially Roma. The organisation has cut itself off from integration centres to be able to work even more accessible and now encounters the most terrifying misery. The stories the social workers tell border on the incredible. Nobody wants to help, not even hospitals (people with a heart operation after just a couple days need to return home and lay on the ground in a squat). They are confronted with questions like: what to do with the corps? People die but cannot be buried … The organisation can’t receive any subsidies because no one wants to burn their hands helping “illegals”. Only through the channels of the poverty entrance can sometimes something be arranged for. I think they have a very clear vision, worth wile investigating … I told them maybe you all should write this down somewhere and publish. Yeah, stuff for books they said …’ (JWW, p.172)

The VOET items we connected to this phase we chose, as always, for quite straightforward reasons:

– Stam (Trunk) 4. Empathy: confronting stories like that (almost) spontaneously awakens the mechanisms of empathy which if need be can be fine-tuned through group discussions, exchanging views and so make everyone reflect and some adjust. No student should or could honestly be untouched by these stories.

– Context Mentale gezondheid (Mental Health) 2. Handle in a sound way joy, sorrow, fear, anger, loss and mourning: these confrontations could easily be seen as a way for students to learn and practice this more. The way they first handled these emotions was not to block further exploration of the problem.

– Context Mental Health 3. Recognize problematic situations and ask, accept and offer help: that is also what we could easily connect to these first encounters – do they spontaneously ‘ask questions etc.’ so that they would really get involved?

It’s in this fashion one reads and connects all items of the used matrix(es), only to check if the table is comprehensive enough and meets the demands of educational policy.

Doing part

 In that first phase the students divided their groups into small working groups that would handle different tasks during the whole undertaking:

The “Liaisons” would uphold the contact with our partners and jury (the helping organisations) and would help the film crew. The “Awards” would look for school competitions and other means to promote our engagement. The “Artists” would take care of the creative lining and make art works. The “Benefits” would organise sales (of healthy snacks and such) to make some money that we used to pay the undocumented migrants and refugees who we would interview. And finally the “Diaries” would each write about their experiences and reflections on the LWZ and the subject – what made it possible to “check” the evolution in their value system and attitudes more closely. These four students would also become the test or reference group for several parts of the participating intervention study (that TRP also was) and would sometimes act as our representatives, as will become clear in some of the documentary clips.

Organizing the group (that the previous years was, according to the teachers of those years, quite a difficult group) that way soon made for a well-organized class ready to take on something, an engagement, they called ‘exciting’.

‘This way the group took on a whole bunch of matrix items. To be somewhat specific: communicative capacity, creativity, aesthetic competency, exploration, flexibility, initiative, open and constructive attitude, responsibility, caring attitude.’ (JWW, p.176)

Jury

Summary of the judgement so far:

‘The subject that should bring the world into view had touched the students and this helped to motivate them for a hopeful enterprise in which they would have their say. More could not be expected. Their involvement was raised.’ (JWW, p.176)