Pupils stay home in fear of racist mob

18th February 2000 at 00:00
SPAIN: Psychologists have been sent into schools as violence spreads across

Andalucia. Paul Rigg reports

RACIAL violence has swept through the southern Spanish region of Andalucia, prompting the educational authority to send a team of psychologists into schools to help 400 affected pupils.

Up to 80 per cent of immigrant children in some schools are being kept at home by their parents to avoid racial confrontations at the school gates with anti-immigrant protesters.

The attacks in El Ejido and surrounding towns which began on February 5, were sparked by the alleged killing of a young Spanish woman by a Moroccan man. Houses have been set alight by hundred-strong mobs chanting racist slogans. Immigrants, mostly Moroccans, have been attacked in the streets with stones, wooden clubs and metal bars.

"The immigrant children are very frightened and the

situation is still very tense,"

said Domingo Hernandez, headteacher of El Instituto de Santo Domingo. "The children that have returned to school fear the rejection of their classmates. Many have remained in their homes during the attacks, hoping it will not affect them. One 14-year-old girl told me yesterday that her family are avoiding main roads whenever they travel out of fear of the mobs."

our additional psychologists will join 14 others in the region who work in local schools one day a week. The psychologists usually attend classes and run group sessions personal relationships, smoking and drug abuse.

The new staff will be trained teachers as well as psychologists. They will work with children on issues such as the importance of community, mutual respect and understanding other cultures.

Another headteacher, Carmen Caparos, of El Instituto Santiago Ramon y Cajal, said: "We are looking forward to the extra support from the psychologists. The teachers feel the children do not want to talk about this issue at the moment; they still feel very insecure.

"The immigrant children integrate well in the classroom, but in the playground and in the dining-room they are sticking together."

The heads believe the real solution to the problems does not lie in the classroom. The region of Andalucia has become very wealthy in recent years as the result of intensive market gardening. Immigrants - many lacking residency papers - are paid half the wages of Spanish workers and endure appalling conditions.

Tension has also been caused between ethnic groups as a result of farm owners employing Romanians and other immigrants rather than Moroccans.

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