Edlumino Studium 
La Liniere

 This project involved providing learning to the children in the refugee camp of La Liniere at Grande Synthe (near Dunkirk) and also making a learning space available.

The camp of La Liniere was built in a joint project between the mayor of Grande Synthe, Damien Careme, and Medicine Sans Frontiers. The purpose of the camp was to improv the extremely unsatisfactory conditions of the previous camp of Basroch. This camp was the first official camp to be built in Europe since World War II (1945) and it was built to UN international standards for a refugee camp. When we opened for lessons in the camp on the 8th March the media reported it as the first time that schooling had taken place in an official refugee camp in Europe since the end of World War II in 1945.

During the duration of this project we maintained normally around 3 teachers on site, with numbers rising to around 8 at particular peak times. We worked in the camp from 7th March until finally withdrawing on the 31st August 2016.

We worked with around 400 children during the duration of this project. There was an extremely high turnover of children due to people smuggling, trafficking and families leaving to avoid the influence of criminal gangs in the camp. The numbers of children in the camp at any one time varied from about 300 when the camp opened to about 100 at the point where we left. At times we did a limited out-reach from the camp to unofficial free camps in the surrounding areas, but our main focus was upon providing learning within the camp.

The composition of the group of children was mainly Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian and Kurdish. In the Winter of 2015, Kurdish (Sorani speaking) children were in the majority. By summer 2016 there was a significantly increasing cohort of Iranian Farsi speaking children. Another phenomenon we noticed during the summer of 2016 was an increasing number of children arriving with German or French language skills due to periods of time spent in those countries before arriving at the Basroch camp.

When we started teaching in the camp our facilities consisted of two small humanitarian relief tents of about 20 square metres each. We used the tents flexibly. One was broadly used for secondary age pupils (11-18 years of age) and one for primary pupils (5-10 years of age). Both the tents were in sound condition so they were mainly dry. Due to the demand from children we rapidly outgrew this provision and ended up having to teach over-spill classes outside in the open air.

We were then loaned a large 70m square tent which had been salvaged from the previous Basroch camp. This was a very effective size for a teaching space and we had up to 50 children in it at times. However the tent was quite damaged so although it represented a gain in terms of teaching space, it represented a regress in terms of no longer having a dry classroom. Many mornings were marked by having to hang up books and/or children’s work on a line outside in order to dry it in the sun.

We were built a more substantial wooden shelter as a teaching space by Hummingbird (Brighton Build) . These organisations raised £15,000 and built two large wooden huts which had solar panels and could provide a small electrical current to power lights. Overall the facility was about 50 square metres and we had groups of up to between 30 and 40 children in the building at times. The buildings were watertight. We were never able to put up a formal sign for the building, due to ongoing political sensitivities about what to call the building. Words such as “school” were deemed too sensitive. When significant politicians visited the camp, all evidence of anything school related was cleared out of the building. The building carried signs at different times denoting it as a ‘recreational centre,’ a ‘cultural centre’ and as a ‘children’s centre’.​
​We taught children between the ages of 5 and 18 and began preparing older children to do public examinations.

The value of donations, voluntary support and educational aid committed to this project was in the region of about £75,000.
The project came to an end due to three main factors:

Educational Transition: mainstream education is always our preferred model for refugee children, as it improves integration and provides a much broader set of educational opportunities for the children. The integration benefits of this transition were immediately apparent to us. When we first started work in the camp almost all of the children refused to learn French. This was because their main experience of France was a negative experience of interaction with the police. When the children started going to French schools, the refugee children became far more positive in their views of France. We saw this with an immediately increased interest in learning French and a willingness by families to talk about taking asylum in France.

Child Protection: during our time teaching in the camp it was widely reported in the media that about 50 children a month ‘disappeared’ from the camp. We had no idea where the children were going to. We do not know if it was due to safe transfer to another country or due to more sinister issues to do with people trafficking. Attempts to report missing children and get cases followed up were extremely difficult.  As soon as the French state showed an interest in reaching out educationally to the children we immediately realised that this could considerably improve Child Protection, as it would ensure that the children were on official legal registers for the first time. A child on an official register who disappears is far more visible to the authorities than an unknown child in a camp. As the Mayor of Grande Synthe said that he would find places in local schools for every child, we prioritised supporting the transition of children into the French schools, and withdrawing ourselves from the camp so that there could be no accidentally negative incentives for a child to remain in the camp and therefore remain ‘less safe’ because of not engaging with the French state.

Reduction in size of the camp: when the camp first opened there were about 2000 people (and 300 children) seeking a place in the camp. By August 2016 the number of people in the camp had fallen to just over 500 and the number of children had fallen to less than 100. Public documents stated that the intention of the French state was now to reduce the size of the camp until the point where it could be closed. During July some of the shelters in the camp began to be dismantled. With massively reduced need for education and with the French state stepping forward to meet that need, there was no longer a need for us to be present in the camp providing educational aid.

In July we therefore agreed with the mayor to withdraw by August 31st 2016. As part of the withdrawal we gradually reduced educational provision in the camp and then handed over to a Utopia56 French initiative commencing on 5th August. This French initiative was intended to provide intensive French language support through activities, so that the children were better prepared to start the term in French schools in September 2016.
TES 2016 Award winning blog writer Natalie H Scott has written about her experiences in Grande Synthe La Liniere on her website.   https://nataliehscott.wordpress.com

You can read more from Natalie and others on the Edlumino blog on our website. www.edlumino.org/blog ​ where you can search for further information on Edlumino initiatives. 
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    La liniere Evening in La Liniere on main path up to the shelters
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    School tent Old womens distribution tent from Basroch reused at la Liniere as second school tent
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    Maths Lesson Rory Fox preparing students for Maths iGCSE
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    Tent Overflows! When the school tent was full Edlumino volunteers took tables and chairs outside on an uncharacteristically warm French day.
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    Colleagues We have been blessed to have many colleagues visit and volunteer with us. Her Freshta a Kurdish headteacher teaches Rory key phrases and etiquette.
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    Colleagues Rory receiving advice from Freshta Raper a headteacher from Iraq on Kurdish and pronunciation.
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    English A volunteer improving extended writing skills with 12 year old Kurdish refugee
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    Volunteer Inside new school building and a Primary specialise volunteer continues his Geography and Maths lessons
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    Building Thanks to the generosity of Hummingbirds / Brighton Build and donors our school building is completed and quickly filled.
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    Unusual conditions Sometimes to get work completed volunteer teachers are literally left holding the baby!
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    Chess Learning how to play chess after the school day ends with a 12 year old Kurdish boy
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    Chess (2) Being beaten at chess during lunchtime with an unaccompanied minor.
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    Maths iGCSE Tutoring a 16 year old Kurdish girl for her Maths iGCSE
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    Reading Wall A proud student posing next to the reading wall. As she wanted her photo taken she ran home first, got her hair braided and new clean top put on before the photo was taken.
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    Handwriting A key start for the younger children is handwriting and how to form letters.
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    Reading An 8 year old Kurdish girl reading her favourite book...again....
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    Solar Panels The solar panels on the roof of the new building allow us to power the building with a few low watt bulbs and run 1 laptop/computer at a time.
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    Shelters Families of up to four live in each of these shelters.
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    Floods April 2016 brought floods to Northern France and the school buildings seen here in the background.
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    Microscope Students examining treasures they have found in camp through the newly donated microscope.
  1. 5
    Months
  2. 4
    Edlumino Volunteers per day minimum
  3. £60,000
    Cost
  4. August 2016
    Project Ended