A group of migrants during an Italian lesson at Gonzaga Campus in Palermo | Photo: Gonzaga Campus website
A group of migrants during an Italian lesson at Gonzaga Campus in Palermo | Photo: Gonzaga Campus website

The Italian school for migrants at Gonzaga Campus in Palermo helps those fleeing poverty and violence. For 15 years it has been a focal point for migrants and refugees who want to integrate in Italy.

For 15 years, the Italian school for migrants at Gonzaga Campus in Palermo has been helping those fleeing poverty and violence.

The school is recognized by the Astalli Centre, the Italian face of the Jesuit Refugee Service, and is a focal point for migrants and refugees who want to integrate, beginning with the language of the host country.

"I've been in Palermo four years and this is the first year I've participated in this course," said Sara, 35, who arrived in Italy from Nigeria.

"Trying to learn the Italian language is very important, above all because it gives you a greater chance to find work. Oftentimes many problems arise precisely from the difficulty of not being able to understand each other."

"I want to learn how to write and speak the Italian language well, because my desire is one day to be able to work as a cultural mediator," said Adish, a 24-year-old Mauritian. "By improving communication, many goals can be reached," he said.

Another student, a 28-year-old Brazilian named Any, recently obtained Italian citizenship. "I have always liked the Italian culture a lot," she said. "I graduated in mathematics in my country, but my desire in Italy is to specialize in sign language for deaf people."

After Covid, work resumes

Ten volunteers work with the migrants, along with four young people for the school-work internship. The volunteers include a seminarian, a primary-school Italian teacher, a middle-school French teacher and other teachers now in retirement.

"After a period of forced break due to the pandemic, starting last November we resumed all our school activities," said the Jesuit Giacomo Andreetta, coordinator of the school's volunteer service.

"At the moment there are about 40 foreigners between 12 and 40 years old, but their number could grow, albeit to a limited extent due to Covid regulations. We have several cases of family reunification of people who had to start from scratch with the Italian language."

The students come from different countries: Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, Latvia and Ukraine.

The school is open every afternoon from Monday to Friday and is organized into four courses.

"We have people who need to learn basic literacy, and others who need to improve their level for work or to obtain citizenship. In May, there will be the chance for some to take the external exam that certifies the B1 language level required for a residence card or citizenship," Andreetta said.

A pillar of Gonzaga Campus

"Centro Astalli's Italian school is one of the pillars of Gonzaga," said Father Vitangelo Denora, Gonzaga Campus general director. "The experience of the school for foreigners, which has been carried out on campus for many years now, is essential for us. It is not a matter of hospitality, but rather a meaningful element that is integral to our educational programme."

Denora explains there are three schools at Gonzaga: the Italian school, the international school and the school for migrants -- all of which "share the values of hospitality, inclusion and social integration."

 

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