In recent decades, one phenomenon facing our education system concerns the large number of migrant children attending primary and secondary schools due to the strong migratory flows that have ended up in our country. This situation has resulted in Greeks living with people of various nationalities in more social contexts, one of which is school.
The concern about pupils’ treatment of different cultural origins in educational institutions is not a recent phenomenon. In many cases, Greek students in the school environment, due to the hostile climate prevailing on the broader society and the possible xenophobic attitude of their parents, have a negative behavior towards migrant students, so that these children are permanently marginalized and alienated. In such an environment of coexistence of many different cultures and nationalities, conflicts between Greeks and immigrants are quite often, and can also lead to intense violence episodes.
Teachers are called upon to prevent such incidents by cultivating mutual respect and solidarity among their students. Their main task should be to increase children’s knowledge and understanding of diversity and human rights and develop communication and social sensitivity skills. These objectives will gradually change any possible distorted attitudes and views, ultimately eliminating students’ negative prejudices and actions for peaceful cohabitation and interaction with their classmates.
This goal can be achieved through games and activities, depending on the students’ age. Their primary objective is learning that diversity does not mean that others are superior and others inferior; we are all equal regardless of our external characteristics that may differ.
Some ideas are the following:
For primary school children:
· You can play blind muscle by letting each child who has the handkerchief in their eyes discover with the touch sense the other children’s various facial features. This game will help them understand that skin color does not matter, and these characteristics are the same in all people.
· A variation of this game can be played in couples all blindfolded with a handkerchief, discovering each other, trying to guess who they are, and then changing pairs.
· Another exercise again in pairs is where students can sit opposite each other and paint each other.
· Children can be divided into groups formed by the teacher, including people from all ethnicities in the classroom. A person of different nationality from each group will teach other children certain essential words and phrases from their language and then present them to the other groups.
· You can play many games in groups using colors from paints, colored cards or chopsticks, and colorful fruits and vegetables.
For secondary school children, you can try different exercises by deepening the specificities of different cultures:
· All children of different nationalities in groups, can cook the traditional food of their country and then sit together and taste others’ food.
· In groups involving people of all nationalities, participants can do a project to analyze each culture’s specific characteristics to get to know each other better.
· Two volunteers can sit in front, and the rest of their classmates can find the differences and similarities between them.
· Each student can write anonymously about five of his classmates from 3 positive characteristics (each student will take on different classmates). Then someone will read these texts throughout the class.
· Another exercise for students to understand why different skin colors exist can be done using milk and cocoa. Teachers explain to children that skin color differences are due to varying melanin levels present in the skin likening melanin to cocoa.
These were some exercises to cultivate acceptance and respect for diversity. Of course, there will always be a discussion between students and teachers to clarify any questions and problems or to resolve possible disagreements that have arisen. It is also helpful for parents of all children to participate in some games because xenophobic attitudes and perceptions are established within the family and, in this way, it would be possible to eliminate and avoid the creation of new ones. It is good always to stress that we are all different and unique, but at the same time, we are equal, and we have the same rights. Let us learn from young children who ignore color, appearance, and the differences that “separate” them from others and focus on what unites them because they see and love with the heart.