Many families found refuge in Montréal after the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010.
Schools and the community were quick to express concern regarding the children from these families and noted the importance of identifying their needs and mobilizing the appropriate resources to foster their academic and social integration. In response to this concern, this research documented the socio-academic experience of forty students aged 13 to 20, who were placed into welcoming classes, regular classes, special education or the adult education sector. Individual interviews were conducted with the students, as well as with 22 parents, 8 school staff members and 9 community and psychosocial workers.
The research draws attention to the heterogeneity of the students’ social, family and academic profiles.
Our findings highlight the resilience shown by the young people as they attempted to overcome grief, trauma and family separation in the aftermath of the earthquake by focusing on their education. Many were remarkably successful at integrating into Québec schools. Others showed a combination of vulnerabilities: acculturative stress; adjustment issues related to grief, trauma and family separation; socio-economic disadvantage; learning difficulties; or lack of motivation after being put back one or more grades.
The research draws attention to the heterogeneity of the students’ social, family and academic profiles. In this regard, it is important to adopt a differentiated approach that does not restrict students or their ethno-cultural/social group to predetermined categories. In particular, there is a need to review the process for determining the appropriate program and grade level, which appears to be applied systematically without taking into account the students’ educational background.
Gina Lafortune, Université du Québec à Montréal
Deposit of the research report: January 2015