Peer Mentoring - Supporting refugee children's integration in Polish schools
Type of Information
Fundacja DIALOG (formerly Fundacja Edukacji i Twórczości)
Katarzyna Potoniec (Login to send email)
Contact Person Function
The Peer Mentoring programme organised by Fundacja DIALOG (formerly Fundacja Edukacji i Twórczości) aimed to support foreign children in their integration in Polish schools by implementing a method of peer mentoring in primary and lower secondary schools. The peer mentoring was based on a supportive relationship between a (Polish) peer mentor and a mentee.
Issue/Challenge and Goal/Assumption
Adaptation at Polish schools is a serious problem for refugee children living in Białystok due to the language and cultural barrier, lack of friends, mutual mistrust and stereotypes. Even after several years of education in Poland, foreign children rarely establish relationships with Polish peers. The main goal of the Peer Mentoring programme was therefore to support foreign children in their integration in Polish schools through peer mentoring in primary and lower secondary schools.
- Reducing the sense of loneliness and isolation of refugee children
- Expanding the network of contacts of refugee children
- Teaching Polish
- Developing social skills of refugee children and their Polish mentors
- Solving various problems of refugee children
- Developing intercultural skills of mentors and mutual learning of cultures
- Promoting the idea of peer mentoring
- Integrating refugee children with Polish children
How does it work
Peer mentoring is based on a supportive relationship between a mentor and a mentee who are social peers. In this case, the mentors were Polish pupils who typically did well in school and volunteered for the role. They were trained on how to act as a mentor.
The mentors were each responsible for accompanying a refugee pupil who was having difficulties in primary or lower secondary school. Through the mentoring relationship, refugee pupils had an opportunity to learn Polish, develop social skills and make friends with Polish peers.
School staff supervised the mentor-mentee pairs. Each mentoring pair and the supervising staff signed a contract specifying the aims of the mentoring relationship. Mentors and mentees met each week for at least an hour throughout the school year. Mentors kept journals of their experiences.
Important organising principles:
- The programme should have a real coordinator.
- Both mentors and mentees should participate in the programme only on a genuinely voluntary basis.
- Mentors and mentees should receive an appropriate introduction to the programme so they can make an informed decision about participation.
- Programmes coordinators should carefully decide which pupils to pair together.
- An adult should provide discrete control and support to the mentoring pairs.
Participants reported that the mentoring programme was beneficial for both mentors and mentees. Mentors developed their social and intercultural skills, sensitivity and empathy. Mentees gained support in difficult situations, had an opportunity to learn Polish and established relationships with Polish peers, which helped build their self-confidence. Chechen refugee children emphasised that they were more willing to study in the company of their mentors.
An evaluation conducted during and after the project examined the programme’s process (e.g., support for mentors and mentees provided by the tutor, reaction to ad hoc problems) and outcomes. The evaluation looked at whether the mentoring met the objectives stated in the contracts signed by the mentor-mentee pairs, examined the journals of the mentors and conducted questionnaires and interviews.
Who will benefit?
The programme’s target groups were refugee children and their Polish peer mentors. Indirectly, the whole school community could benefit from the improved integration of refugee children and better understanding among Polish children of their migrant peers.
Source of funding and Resources used
Funding came from the European Refugee Fund. Peer mentoring does not require significant financial investment as it is based on the voluntary participation of the pupils as well as the pedagogues who oversee the mentor-mentee pairs.