Spain: Inclusion and social cohesion in times of COVID-19

January of this running year witnessed the beginning of the project “Integral and inclusive education in contexts of social vulnerability”, which is part of the EPGO III Programme. Starting off in the Spanish Autonomous Regions of Galicia, Asturias and Castilla y León, we initiated the outlined social and educational work with youth and schools, looking to drive processes of inclusion, peaceful social cohesion, and promotion of gender equality in rural regions, neighborhood her exclusion rates, and socio-culturally diverse schools. At this point in time, none of the members of the technical team, nor the educational teams with whom we work hand in hand with, could have imagined the incalculable changes that were about to occur.

«Throughout these past months we have put a stray on the resistance of the educational system and on human rights, amongst many others. We can learn from everything and we can also manage to attain a transformative education where youth are able to learn how to guide their hearts and minds» Iris Trigo, volunteer at Entreculturas in Galicia

This year 2020 has confronted us with demanding global challenges in all given latitudes of the planet, and yet at the same time, it is also teaching us that individuals and communities are more interconnected than ever before. If we are to learn something transformative out of the crisis generated by COVID-19 is that human beings depend on one another, hence why we need global and shared solutions. Facing this large-scale scenario of human rights’ vulnerability, widening of digital, social and educational gaps, this project has a fundamental responsible role, with more pertinence than ever before: to promote a transformative, integral and inclusive education in contexts that have been especially vulnerated by the enhancement of social inequalities. This can only be achieved through cooperation, in working with each other, in networks with other social/educational organizations and schools that also view education as a fundamental right and a key strategy to build peaceful, inclusive and equitative living contexts.

Put into words by one of the project’s participants, Iris Trigo, volunteer at Entreculturas in Galicia, “Throughout these past months we have put a stray on the resistance of the educational system and on human rights, amongst many others. We can learn from everything and we can also manage to attain a transformative education where youth are able to learn how to guide their hearts and minds”.

The right to an education that addresses present inequalities, now widened by COVID-19, is also one of the main concerns of the youth, educators and people we work with in this project. Taking into account this scenario, we have been able to redirect the annual planning and adapt ourselves to the new identified needs, prioritizing the educational and socioemotional support needed in times of distance, digital and educational gaps, schoolwork overload, and social difficulties in the communities we work with.

  • Identifying and reaching out to diverse social and educational centres, confirming their implication with the project through meetings, project presentations, and analysis of needs in their respective contexts.
  • Accompanying three educational centres located in contexts of social exclusion throughout the three Autonomous Regions.
  • Accompanying a socio-educational process with youth in a context of social exclusion in Castilla y León.
  • Realization of different regional and national workshops on peace culture and gender equality for youth and educators.
  • Facilitation of the online Course “Community strategies to improve social cohesion and inclusion among youth in times of crisis”, designed throughout 5 sessions and continuous work online in Galicia and Asturias, providing integral support to 15 educators from 11 different social and educational centres, who acquired knowledge and tools in the promotion of inclusion, gender equality education, and social cohesion. The course has been evaluated as necessary and supportive for educators’ educational practice in times of COVID-19, and it will be put into practice and followed up during the next school year. 100% of the participants evaluated the course as being of significant importance and utility to integrate new resources in their social and educational work with youth through this crisis.
  • In the three Autonomous Regions, several educational encounters took place: two Training Assemblies for a total of 19 educators, and two Youth Assemblies for a total of 51 young people (67% of whom were women). In these Assemblies they worked on the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on gender equality, social cohesion and inclusion; they learnt about online mobilisation and advocacy tools they could integrate into their solidarity actions; and they finalized the Assemblies through one awareness-raising act directed to citizens, in which they published solidarity messages that intended to raise critical thinking and transformative action upon the inequalities that most concern them, using social media (#RSJenacción).

“The Youth Solidarity Network did not stop when the situation we are living through arrived, and it searched for alternatives…”, maintains Hugo, a secondary-grade student in the Virxe Cela school, Galicia. “We engaged in issues including political advocacy, which we looked into in great detail, as well as the actual context of the environment, migration matters, and the inequality that women experience throughout the planet.”

The coming school year poses multiple unknowns and challenges, but it also inspires us to address them with hope: throughout these past months, we have been able to establish that even in times of crisis, distances are relative, and the educational work we are leading in this project by working in contexts of wider social vulnerability is not only possible, but also more necessary than ever before. The project is already organizing the following educational encounters, a Seminar on Educational Practices in Galicia, and the integral support to participating centres, youth and educators from the three Autonomous Regions. We will continue to advance in networks, with the certainty that educating towards global solidarity, social cohesion, inclusion and gender equality is paramount to respond to the social and educational inequalities that we are living through in Spain and in the world.

«As a teacher I am compromised to continue keeping alive the solidarity group, to support them in becoming compromised, active and responsible individuals with their surroundings» Milagros, teacher at the school IES Agra do Orzan, Galicia