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“They are less interested and their need is not as great; in reality, they follow the examples set by their families”, says Rafael Durán
23.04.09 - 17:40 -

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“It’s the British children who have the most difficulty integrating in class”
Rafael Durán. / ANTONIO SALAS
He is the head of the Interdisciplinary Seminar of Studies on Immigration at the University of Malaga. Rafael Durán, conscious of the need to improve the process of adaptation of foreign children in schools in Malaga, recently organised a conference called Coexistence in the School Environment, with the assistance of the City Hall and the regional government. The conference was attended by around fifty teachers from different parts of the province. Regarding integration, Rafael has no hesitation in stating that the children who experience the most problems are British, “because they are not as interested and their need is not so great; in reality, they follow the example of other members of their families”.
Why did you organise a conference about multi-culturality?
That’s easy. The phenomenon of migration is a fact. And children and teenagers have stereotypes or prejudices, attitudes which can generate conflict. One person may not understand another because no previous work has been done on integration, and this could be done in schools. A couple of weeks ago, the European Parliament approved a report which proposed using extra-curricular activities as a form of socialisation and integration. It is much easier for children to see themselves as equals in a football lesson. That’s why this conference was held, to discuss how to improve integration and multi-culturality.
What lesson is to be learned about immigration?
There isn’t a lesson to be learned, but I am worried about the future. Immigration isn’t a problem, it’s a phenomenon. It became a problem in France, and Paris was set on fire. Cases such as Paris and El Ejido could happen again if we do things wrong.
How can we do things well?
By neutralising stereotypes and prejudices and stopping arguments and conflict. And, of course, by not confusing tradition with culture. There has been a case in the news about a young girl who has married her cousin and they forced her to have sexual relations with him. That isn’t culture, that’s tradition, and is clearly in contravention of human rights.
Do you agree with the measures which have been taken in France, where children are allowed to wear religious symbols such as the veil to school?
You have to be very careful not to stigmatise the use of the veil, as this would impede the integration of women and girls into the society in which they are living. It is more productive to facilitate the use of the veil because this could result in the woman having the freedom to stop wearing it, because she has lived with people who are different. If you ban the veil, a girl will begin to see it as part of her identity and she will hang on to it. Then, she will lose the freedom to choose whether or not to wear it, and why.
Is it true that the British have the most problems in integrating?
Yes, because they are not very interested and have less need to integrate. In reality, they follow the example of other members of their families. But that also applies to other European nationalities. If their parents don’t integrate and if they settle all their matters in their native tongue, the language of the host country becomes dispensable.
And when these children start studying in Spanish schools?
Synergy can be created, which is something different. In the Costa del Sol we have a wealth of resources because being bilingual is common. In Mijas, the foreigners help the Spanish children to learn their language, and Spanish adults can do the same with the immigrants, as well as organising activities for the children of different nationalities.

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