details of interview
Role of the Interviewed: PE teacher
Type of radicalization: ethnic discrimination
Historical period collocation: 2016
Date/Country of the Interview: 24/09/2018, Greece
Interviewer: Municipality of Evrotas
Municipality of Evrotas
Have you witnessed or experienced personal situations of radicalization during your activity in sport organizations? What kind of radicalizations have you detected? (Gender, politics, religion, racism, crime, homophobia…)
I am a physical education teacher and I have been working at the same school for the last 16 years. A lot of children with a migrant background have been enrolled in our school the last years and we had never experienced discrimination cases till 2 years ago. Before having this interview, I had never thought of the incident I am going to describe, that way, but now that we are talking I believe that it could be strongly related with radicalisation process.
Telling your story. What has happened? How has the story started?
The incident concerns a former student of mine and more specifically a young girl with migrant background, aged 13 years old. She was an excellent student, with consistency, always smiling, very kind and shy and a willing girl who was always trying to help her classmates and always cooperating with everyone.
Apparently, a lot of incidents had probably happened but she had never told anything to anyone, neither to her school teachers, nor to her parents. One day, it was too rainy to do outdoor sport activities so I decided to have a theoretical session with the students about sports played in ancient times. When we reached the classroom, I remembered that I had forgotten to bring the projector, so I kindly requested from the children to stay quiet in the classroom, until I come back with the projector and continue our theoretical session.
How did you realize what was going on? What kind of signals could you detect? How do you explain radicalization, referring to your experience?
When I was reaching the classroom, I heard through the half-opened door a group of kids screaming nicknames and a lot of unpleasant comments, all targeting the girl and especially her origin and her skin color. The girl was not talking and not responding back to any of the comments. I couldn’t stand anymore to hear these things, so I opened the door and entered the classroom, I looked the girl and she seemed quiet and a bit sad. I started talking about this with the kids and I asked them to explain to me the reason of all these comments and behavior. After that we had a long talk with the kids about values such as diversity, tolerance and respect.
Have you tried to cope with this situation? What was possible to do? What have you done? Have you involved other people/organizations? Who was involved?
It’s strange but somehow, I decided from that day and especially after this conversation, to watch this class and the behavior of this group of children towards the girl and see if the comments and the maltreatment will go on.
Unfortunately my fears came true. The situation kept going on, so I decided to do something about it.
I had a meeting with all the school teachers and the headmaster, where I described the incidents and I explained to them the situation and the isolation of the girl. We decided to work with the children with some classroom activities and interactive games focusing on exploring prejudices, stereotypes, racism, exclusion, equality and diversity with the aim to fight the phenomenon. Furthermore, the headmaster arranged a meeting with parents in order to provide information but also to offer advice on the topic. Unfortunately very few parents showed up and attended the meeting. In the meantime, during my lesson with this class, I formed an amateur basketball team including all the girls where I was coaching girls’ basketball. Since then and every time during my class, the girls were practicing basketball and playing mini tournaments.
Did you feel you had the skills to manage this kind of situations? Which was the most difficult part of it? Have you had any form of support?
Personally, I felt unskilled and unable to manage the situation. Despite the fact that during my studies I had also attended courses in pedagogy nothing had prepared me for dealing with such issues. Thankfully, I had the support both of the rest of the school teachers and of the school principal who payed attention to the case and were immediately engaged in facing the problem. Sadly, I did not have the support I expected from the parents. The most difficult parts were the indifference of the parents and the fact that I was witnessing the maltreatment of the girl and the change in her behavior, withdrawing into herself and isolated from the other students.
End of the story. How did the story end up? What have you learned from this personal experience? What would you say to people who are living similar situations?
The girl with the migrant background was proved to be a great and talented basketball player and this was something that the rest of her classmates noticed and started respecting and admiring. Gradually, things became normal over time and the girl had the best relationship with her classmates. This incident made me experience in practice that sport has the power to break down barriers and unite people.