Forcibly displaced children’s journey may last several years before they and their family settle in their final destination country with their family. Once attained this goal, getting enrolled in school may not be an absolute priority, having to deal with many pressing issues such as administrative procedures, securing accommodation, healthcare, etc. 

As a consequence, getting back to school for those children, kept away from classrooms for such a long time when  they had a chance to attend school at all – is not a linear path. And very often, these children leave the school much faster than they got into it.

To prevent these situations, two Belgian teachers, Marie Pierrard et Juliette Pirlet, created la Petite Ecole which supports children and families in their integration process in education. The objective of la Petite Ecole is beyond getting children enrolled in school, getting them succeed. It offers them a smooth transition period in which they get used to being away from their families, learn the language but above all, the basic social rules and behaviours that they’re expected to follow when at school and finally, build the self-esteem they’ll need to take up this new challenge. The project is very much oriented towards developing an individual approach for each child and prioritises building a solid trust relationship between the school and the parents which is key to the academic success of the newly enrolled students.

It has been run since February 2016 and hosts in two classes an average of 12 children aged from 6 to 15 and coming from all regions of the world (Syria, Guinea, Senegal, Morocco, etc). Several institutions collaborate with the initiative to accompany children and offer them a broad range of support activities: sports, psychological assistance, artistic activities, etc. 

The transition period spent at la Petite Ecole is decided on a case-by-case basis according to children’s and families’ readiness. The project’s team accompanies them during the enrolment process by contacting the schools, presenting the child’s situation, showing the school, etc.

Since January 2017, « La petite école des devoirs » has been created to provide homework support to alumnis and maintain contact with children and families that once attended La petite école.