The aim of the Confini program is to provide education policies promoting cultural diversity and global citizenship among students from middle and high schools in Italy, specifically to raise the awareness of the migration phenomenon through both information provision and contact with a migrant. The Sophia Cooperative has started implementing the Confini program in Rome since 2016, and it has so far reached more than 7,000 students aged between 11 and 18 years old from all over Italy and 743 students from 4 institutes of Dakar, in Senegal.
The program has different objectives. First, its aim is to raise the awareness of the immigration phenomenon among youths and make them conscious of the richness coming from a multicultural society. Second, it stimulates intercultural exchanges between the migrant and the students, to reduce prejudice among the latter group. Finally, it encourages students to use their talent and creativity (e.g. through songs, videos, poems) to present how the program impacted on their perception of a multicultural society.
Since 2016, the Confini program promotes the importance of exchange with and respect for different cultures and a correct information to raise the awareness of the richness coming from a multicultural society. This program specifically refers to target 4.7 of the SDGs (“Quality education”), so that students might form their own perception of immigration and of a multicultural and inclusive society based on a correct information on the migration phenomenon in their society and in the world.
The program is composed by four parts. All the students, first, meet in class one migrant and read about his story, and how and why he left his country to emigrate to Italy. The meeting in class lasts for two hours, whereas they are given the book telling the story of the refugee roughly three weeks before the meeting. During the meeting, students have the possibility to ask questions about his story, his country, and his values. Secondly, a teacher from Sophia informs the students about the numbers and figures on migration referred to the country where the program is implemented (in 2020, Italy and Senegal), and in the world. In particular, in a two-hour session, he provides them with notions about how many people emigrate in the world, the origin countries from which the majority of migrants leave, the main reasons, and the main destination countries, and expenditure and revenues deriving from immigrant residents in Italy. After this lecture, Sophia provides students with support to elaborate a project work based on their changes in the perception of immigration. The project work might be (but is not limited to) videos, photos, poems, songs, namely students with their imagination transform the contents received from the program. Finally, Sophia organizes a public event where students present their project works to other students, teachers, politicians, and workers involved in the non-profit sector. To monitor the impact of the Confini program, Sophia administers baseline and endline quali-quantitative questionnaires to students and interviews teachers after the program implementation. A team composed by four workers is totally dedicated to the program implementation (two migrants, one teacher on the migration topic, and one worker involved in the administrative part of the program).
Sophia cares about the effectiveness of its programs. Thus, it conducts every year baseline and endline questionnaires to measure the effect of knowledge on the migration phenomenon, perception of and attitudes towards migrants (including students’ policy preferences towards immigrants and the feelings associated to migrants and to a multicultural society). The effects of the program are also documented in a scientific paper now under review at a journal (“Contact vs. Information: What shapes attitudes towards immigration? Evidence from an experiment in schools”). The program shows positive effects on the knowledge of the immigration phenomenon among participating students. In addition, providing information on immigration leads students to express more inclusive policy preferences. Finally, every year more and more classes and schools decide to participate to the program, and Sophia uses this output as an indicator of its attractiveness for teachers and school directors.
The two key enabling factors are: initial investments and schools’ trust in the program. Participating teachers and students helped Sophia strengthen and diffuse it to other schools. In addition, the low costs (less than 25 euros per student) and the effectiveness of the program have been an attractive element for foundations’ investments over the years. From post-program interviews, Senegalese teachers declared to be willing to participate again in the program and to receive training themselves on the immigration topic. Therefore, not only the program proved replicable in other contexts, but also stimulates new and context-specific features.
The program has a low cost and is highly effective in shaping students’ perceptions towards immigrants and openness towards an inclusive and diverse society. Therefore, many foundations involved in the analysis and support of immigration have contributed to its realization. The program is developed under the methodology “Information and Knowledge for Change”, which Sophia established over the years and whose effectiveness Sophia measured through different studies. Every year, more and more schools are willing to participate to the program. This year, it offers the program to 35 schools in 12 different Italian regions and in 4 high schools in the region of Dakar, in Senegal. Based on an exploratory study, Sophia found that Senegalese high school students have poor knowledge of immigration and biased perceptions of the opportunities to migrate. Therefore, Sophia replicated the program in 4 high schools to raise the awareness on migration and on the opportunities to migrate from Senegal.
Due to Covid-19, in 2020/2021 Italian schools have only been willing to accept online programs. This led Sophia to a re-thinking of the Confini program in virtual form. Not only this has not been an obstacle for program implementation, but it also let Sophia reach even more schools in different regions, which would be otherwise more costly to reach in terms of time and money. In Senegal, instead, Covid-19 caused an earlier school closure in 2020, therefore impeding Sophia to administer endline questionnaires to students. However, Sophia interviewed participating teachers, and these qualitative interviews stimulated new ideas and prospects for the next edition of the program (as teachers’ training on the topic of immigration).
SDGS & Targets
Deliverables & Timeline
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In Italian regions: Latium, Campania, Liguria, Lombardy, Trentino, Emilia-Romagna, Abruzzo, Marche, Umbria, Tuscany, Apulia, Calabria, Basilicata. In Senegalese regions: Dakar.