Jane Bouvier: helping Roma children access their right to education

Jane is one of many champions being highlighted by the GEM Report in the run up to the launch of its 2020 publication on inclusion and education: All means all, due out 23 June. In their own way, and in multiple countries around the world, these champions are fighting for learner diversity to be celebrated, rather than ignored.

In Marseille in France, where Jane lives, the lives of Roma families living in slums is precarious. Children often do not attend school and families do not have access to basic health and housing services. The 2020 GEM Report out next month will show the extent to which many Roma children in different countries around the world find they are segregated off into different schools in some countries, excluded from mainstream systems because of their ‘difference’.

When Jane, a psychologist by training and a former school teacher, learned about their situation in France, she decided to help them get into school. In 2014, after two years of helping Rom children as a volunteer, she quit her job and founded an organization called L’Ecole au Present. Her organization provides support and guiding services to marginalized families on the process of enrolling their children in school, accessing free school meals, and following their children’s school development. Although she began by helping Roma families, nowadays she reaches all families in need of support, including asylum seekers and immigrants. She has gone from helping 40 children back in 2012 to 500 children today.

For Jane, inclusive education is the key for a better society because it means that all children are growing up together at school. For her, it is the school that should adapt to children from different backgrounds or who have a disability and not the other way around. Reality, though, is much different. Jane shares that it is often a struggle to enroll Roma children in mainstream schools. One organization that Jane worked with suggested placing Roma students in a special school only for Rom children. For Jane, this is inadmissible.

“A child’s place is at school with other children. There is no choice; inclusive education is a right and it is the duty of every country to fulfill it.”

Her work goes beyond guiding and support services. Jane has partnered with a theater company to show an adaptation of the life of a Roma girl suffering discrimination at school. The play is shown at schools, after which Jane lets children ask questions and express their feelings. She says children enjoy participating because they can identify with the feelings of rejection. Through empathy, Jane works tirelessly to ensure the right of Roma children to an inclusive education.

“If we want to build a society where everyone feels like they belong, that’s to say a society with less violence and fewer inequalities, no child should remain out of school. The different backgrounds of each child bring benefits and contribute not only to that child’s development but also that of his or her peers.”

The 2020 GEM Report on inclusion will be looking at all those excluded from education systems around the world. It gives concrete policy examples being used by countries to help tackle exclusion, and recommendations for how to make sure every child – no matter their identity, background or ability – can access an inclusive, quality education. Sign up here to receive a copy in your inbox as soon as it is released on 23 June.

Join our first ever virtual global launch on 23 June to hear from inclusion champions, ministers, teachers and celebrities from different corners of the world.


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