It is still dark on the towers of the city. A group of teenagers board a bus. Direction: colleges in the center of Toulouse, where a new program breaks down the barriers of the school map for more social diversity.
“I was in shock when I learned that I had to go to Emile Zola college. It’s so far from home!” Nadej, 12, told AFP, wrapped in a black down jacket.
Two back to school later, the young girl with the chubby face has taken her marks and is less reluctant to wake up before dawn: “At least I am learning well and that will allow me to have a good job later”.
Since 2017, more than 1,100 students like her, from two colleges in the popular city of Mirail, have gradually been redeployed to eleven establishments in favored sectors of Toulouse, with the aim of encouraging social diversity.
A strategy “unique in France”, summarizes Georges Méric, PS president of the Haute-Garonne departmental council, at the initiative of the project.
Barely arrived in technology class, her “favorite”, Nadej, in 5th grade, settles behind a computer screen next to two comrades for a group exercise.
– “Positive emulation” –
“Surrounded by rather successful students, these teenagers (from the mixed program) will tend to put themselves in the same dynamic”, is convinced the principal of the establishment, Fabien Boscher, pointing to “positive emulation”.
“But they are not a homogeneous block, there is not a single profile, and they are far from all failing at school. Some are even excellent,” he insists.
Established at the foot of the towers of the Bellefontaine district in Mirail, the association “L’école et nous” has been warning for years about “the problem of diversity, which is almost non-existent, not only in schools, but throughout the territory” of the city.
“Le Mirail is a city within the city. People have everything nearby, they live in between themselves, they don’t even need to take the metro. So tell the parents + your child will do more than 30 min de bus+ created some at the beginning,” says Malika Baadoud, who heads the association.
Parents also feared that their children would be stigmatized.
But “they ended up recognizing with hindsight that it opened up new horizons for them, even for 3rd grade internships!”, She says, remembering a student who did it at the neighborhood butcher’s for lack of be accepted elsewhere.
The association manager hails the initiative of the departmental council as “radical and courageous”.
– Friends from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. –
This long fight for the mixed program, carried out “with obstinacy” by the departmental council with the support of the inspection of the Toulouse academy is, four years later, a “success”, estimates Mr. Méric.
The school results attest to this: in one of the two colleges of Mirail, closed since, less than 50% of the students succeeded in the patent.
“For the first generation of 3rd to have participated in the program, the success rate was 63%”, welcomes the president of Haute-Garonne.
In addition, “33% of students in these areas have obtained more than 12 average patent while they were only 4.6% before,” he adds.
According to Mr. Méric, “this program proves that social diversity is much more effective than piling up educational opportunities in situ in ghettoized neighborhoods”.
But for Nadej, the social mix stops for the moment at the gates of the college.
“I have friends who live in Busca (upscale downtown district, editor’s note), but we don’t go to each other’s homes. They live like in the movies, while we live in a neighborhood”, she says, smirking.
“These are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. friends,” adds her childhood friend Nour el Houda, 12, wearing two thick black braids.
Dressed in white bell bottom pants, the teenager finds that her new comrades are “different and often talk about weird things: once I had a 12, for them it was normal, while for me it was was a lot”.
According to Mr. Boscher, the establishment manager of their college, the ideal would be, in the long term, a “absence of distinction between the students of the mix and the others”.