Italy: Language school for foreigners in Palermo

The Italian school for migrants at the Gonzaga Campus in Palermo helps those fleeing poverty and violence. For 15 years it has been a focal point for migrants and refugees wishing to integrate in Italy.

For 15 years, the Italian school for migrants at the Gonzaga Campus in Palermo has helped those fleeing poverty and violence.

The school is recognized by the Astalli Center, the Italian face of the Jesuit Refugee Service, and is a focal point for migrants and refugees who want to integrate, starting with the language of the host country.

“I’ve been in Palermo for four years and this is the first year I’ve taken this course,” said Sara, 35, who arrived in Italy from Nigeria.

“Trying to learn the Italian language is very important, especially because it gives you more chances of finding a job. Often many problems stem precisely from the difficulty of not being able to understand each other.”

“I want to learn to write and speak the Italian language well, because my desire is to one day be able to work as a cultural mediator,” said Adish, a 24-year-old Mauritian. “By improving communication, many goals can be achieved,” he said.

Another student, a 28-year-old Brazilian named Any, recently obtained Italian citizenship. “I’ve always really liked Italian culture,” she said. “I graduated in mathematics in my country, but my desire in Italy is to specialize in sign language for the deaf.”

After the Covid, work resumes

Ten volunteers work with the migrants, as well as four young people for the school-work internship. Among the volunteers are a seminarian, a primary school Italian teacher, a middle school French teacher and other retired teachers.

“After a period of forced pause due to the pandemic, starting last November, we have resumed all our school activities,” said Jesuit Giacomo Andreetta, the school’s volunteer service coordinator.

“At the moment there are around 40 foreigners between the ages of 12 and 40, but the number could increase, although to a limited extent due to Covid regulations. We have several cases of family reunification of people who had to leave from zero with the Italian Language.”

The students come from different countries: Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, Latvia and Ukraine.

The school is open every afternoon from Monday to Friday and is organized into four courses.

“We have people who need to learn basic literacy, and others who need to improve their level to work or to obtain citizenship. In May there will be the possibility for some to take the external exam that certifies the B1 language level required for a residence or citizenship card,” said Andreetta.

A pillar of the Gonzaga Campus

“The Italian school at Centro Astalli is one of the pillars of Gonzaga,” said Father Vitangelo Denora, general manager of the Gonzaga Campus. “The experience of the school for foreigners, which has been taking place on campus for many years, is essential for us. It is not a question of hospitality, but rather a meaningful element that is an integral part of our program educative.”

Denora explains that there are three schools in Gonzaga: the Italian school, the international school and the school for migrants, which “share all the values ​​of hospitality, inclusion and social integration”.