Poverty study hopes to increase parental involvement in schools


The Brussels Platform against Poverty is working with families, teachers and school directors in the hope of breaking the link between poverty and dropout rates

“A bridge between two worlds”

In Brussels, where one in five young people end their secondary education without obtaining a diploma, dropping out has long been linked to poverty. A new study should help improve this troubling record by increasing parental involvement in schools.

“Because of their own difficult socio-economic situation, the parents often can’t find a way to help their children, or don’t always have the skills to take the necessary steps,” explains Bart Peeters, head of the Brussels Platform against Poverty, the organisation leading the project. “We want to find ways to strengthen the contact between parents and schools.”

Alongside the Brussels Education Centre, the platform will bring together families, teachers and directors from five Dutch-speaking primary and secondary schools in the municipalities of Brussels-City and Sint-Pieters-Woluwe.

“We talked with each of the groups separately about what they see as possible solutions,” says Peeters. “Together, we will decide which ones can be implemented the most easily and will lead to concrete projects that help children remain in school.”

Taking the initiative

Although Peeters says it’s too early to speak of results, he points to a pilot project the platform and its member association Vrienden van het Huizeke have been running in one of the schools.

Being poor means being excluded

- Bart Peeters

“We have a social worker at Sint-Joris primary school who has lived in poverty for much of her own life,” he explains. “She gives advice to the parents and helps them with making phone calls and filling out forms. Parents find it much easier to talk to her and end up taking the initiative themselves.”

Peeters and the organisation are scheduled to present their findings by October. The study does not focus on the financial aspects of poverty, but aims to go beyond that, he explains.

“Being poor means being excluded; that exclusion makes you doubt yourself and makes you lose trust in other people, even the organisations that are designed to help you,” Peeters says. “Ultimately, it’s about building a bridge between two worlds that are having difficulty understanding each other.”

photo: Ingimage