“The desegregation process in the municipality of Salt: from invisibility to political inaction”


The Salt’Educa Association was founded in 2016 when people linked to the Salt-Girona Anti-racist Space, members of various family associations of the schools in the municipality of Salt and other people on an individual basis decided to join forces. At that time, school segregation was such a normal situation that it wasn’t even a subject of debate and much less of political action – indeed, it was completely covered up –, and we saw that there was a need to put this issue on the table.

In this article we provide a detailed view of our experience and of how we are dealing with the two main difficulties that confront us: the invisibility and denial of school segregation and its link to racism, and political inaction and the lack of political will to implement measures that will turn this situation around. At the Salt’Educa Association, we focus our efforts, on the one hand, on communicating about the benefits derived from having schools that reflect the municipality’s social composition and about the harm involved in maintaining the present situation of segregation, and on the other, on encouraging the public administrations to take action accordingly.

In the early assemblies, to which we invited the educational community of Salt in the broad sense of the term (families, teachers and professors, entities, etc.), we observed that the word “(school) segregation” made some people very uncomfortable – especially amongst the families whose children attend private schools or government-subsidised schools. This uncomfortable feeling was manifested in the difficulty of admitting the segregated reality of our schools and, even more, the link between this segregation and racism. As so often happens, the situation was attributed to socioeconomic differences and to urban and residential segregation as the sole conditioning factors of the imbalance in the distribution of pupils. Racism was still not accepted as a structural factor and as a basis for analysis in broaching this issue.

“We observed that the word ‘(school) segregation’ made some people very uncomfortable – especially amongst the families whose children attend private schools or government-subsidised schools.”

With respect to the resistances observed, we should mention one that is quoted very often by the local authorities and their technical staff, involving the misconception that, if we speak of school segregation and racism, we are helping to aggravate the negative image that people have of Salt. Instead of putting on the table the challenges that the municipality is facing and placing emphasis on the actions that are being carried out to overcome them, there is a strong tendency to ignore these problems and a difficulty in considering that residents with a migrant background are rightful citizens of Salt (these residents represent nearly 50% of the population, although the Statistics Institute of Catalonia [Idescat], for its part, reports that only 38% of the municipality’s population is of foreign origin). In short, this tendency evidences that the municipality’s perception does not accord with reality. We believe that the fact that a large part of the residents with a foreign background are not entitled to vote contributes to the biased view of the city.

“There is a strong tendency to ignore these problems and a difficulty in considering that residents with a migrant background are rightful citizens of Salt.”

Given this situation, in 2017 the Salt’Educa Association requested the City Council to carry out an in-depth study of the state of education in Salt for the purpose of analysing this issue in all its breadth and, on the basis of the results of this analysis, to design a broad City Education Plan that would include actions in all the pertinent spheres, with a firm intention of turning the situation of school segregation around. This request was accepted, and the diagnosis together with the City Education Plan were presented to the public in 2018.

From that moment on, over the course of the five years which have elapsed since then, Salt’Educa has participated in all the various work spaces (working groups of the Municipal School Council, follow-up of the Education Plan, etc.), in which we have encountered many obstacles to implementing specific measures aimed to advance towards educational equity – measures whose real impact has been hardly significant.

At the same time, with the intention of providing information and shedding light on the issue, Salt’Educa has organised various activities, such as talks open to the public, a round table with the candidates running for municipal elections, a talk addressed to families during the school pre-registration period, the mobilisation called “Salt says enough is enough!”, the campaign “When the time comes for our children to begin their schooling, which school do we choose?”, the gymkhana for teaching staff called “What Salt do you yourself see?” (discovery of and reflection on the municipality’s various realities), participation in the campaign “You vote here – Register for school here!” of the Schools Collective against Segregation, and others.

The year 2019 marked a turning point with the approval of the Pact against School Segregation in Catalonia promoted by the Ombudsman of Catalonia and the Government of Catalonia’s Ministry of Education. Salt’Educa is one of the signatory entities of the Pact and we believed at that time that it would help to unjam the desegregation process in Salt, especially since the City Council also signed it, apparently with considerable conviction. Indeed, the mayor, Jordi Viñas, of the political party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) gave a speech to this effect in the Parliament of Catalonia on the day the Pact was signed. Moreover, the Pact gave rise to Decree 11/2021, of 16th February, on the programming of the educational offering and on the admission procedure for the schools of the Education Service of Catalonia, which is a measure that also aroused expectations. Nevertheless, we soon came to see that the whole thing was a bluff – to begin with, even though the Decree was approved in March of 2021, it will not be implemented until the 2022/23 school year.

Indeed, with the passing of time, we have found that the Pact is an instrument that is hardly effective as regards the production of real changes throughout Catalonia and that with the Decree, Salt is not advancing as much as would be necessary. On the one hand we see that the Decree is insufficient for Salt in some respects, since the situation in our municipality is one of de facto apartheid; and on the other, we perceive a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the public administrations (the City Council and the Catalan Ministry of Education) in tackling this challenge.

“With the passing of time, we have found that the Pact is an instrument that is hardly effective as regards the production of real changes throughout Catalonia and that with the Decree, Salt is not advancing as much as would be necessary.”

In early 2022, we decided to start up a whole set of actions to draw attention to the problem, to exert pressure on the administrations and to demand a specific pilot plan for the desegregation of Salt. These actions are set within the framework of the campaign called We share a town, let’s share our schools! Enough with school segregation!”, which is addressed to everyone and puts emphasis on the relation between school segregation, racism and social cohesion.

The campaign comprises various activities:

  • Illustrations about school segregation by different artists (Instagram and Twitter). Despite the risk of presenting certain stereotypes or prejudices, the idea behind this action is that a picture forms an ideal instrument for making people think.
  • Round table and debate (first-person testimonies in a dialogue with Sheila González, Doctor of Public Policies and Social Transformation).
  • Informational videos explaining what school segregation is (YouTube and social networks).
  • Personal experience videos presenting examples of the various impacts of school segregation (pupils and former pupils, families, teachers, entities, etc.) (YouTube and social networks).
  • Community activities and cooperative actions with the rest of the municipality’s associations (Entities Fair, Sant Jordi Day, Òmnium Cultural (Re)volt).
  • “Enough with segregation in Salt! Let’s get down to business!” manifesto (with nearly 800 adherents at present between individuals and entities).
  • Visits with informational talks and debates with the teaching staff of the city’s schools.
  • Informational talks and debates with young people.
  • Meetings with the public administrations.

Just as is stipulated in the Decree, a Participative Commission was organised to begin meeting in early 2022. In the case of Salt, this commission is moreover the space in which the preparation is underway of a pilot plan that will extend beyond the scope of the Decree itself.

As things stand today, we may say that, even though we are happy about the work that has been carried out by our association, the challenge of turning the situation of school segregation around is proving to be a process beset with obstacles that is far from providing the positive results that we hoped to achieve and that we believe Salt requires. Although it is true that we have succeeded in putting the issue of segregation on the table, that a debate has been launched on this serious problem and on the racism which accompanies it, and that we now have some tools (the Pact and the Decree) which we were lacking until only a few years ago, there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to transform the reality of our schools’ classrooms so that they will reflect the equity and the equality of opportunities that our children and young people deserve. We are determined to keep on working to achieve this end!

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