Friday, March 14, 2008


Today was spent in the French speaking part of Belgium, in the city of Liège. Did you know that Belgium, with a population of 10 million has a total of 6 different parliaments, 3 national languages, and has been without a functioning government for 8 months?

Part of the problem is with the deep divisions between the Flemish and French speaking regions. Something that became evident today as we discussed immigrant children in the education system and at 28%, an unemployment rate more than twice that in the Flemish speaking region.

One noticable difference was the heavier emphasis on diversity and tolerance, with campaigns to resist the extreme right, and emphasizing the richness in diversity.

At a local public high school, we met students from many countries and talked about their experiences and perceptions of living in Belgian society. Here, two girls from Nigeria are pictured with a program participant who also happened to come from the same country.

After lunch at the school, a visit was made to a holocaust museum where we continued to discuss the importance of education in the integration process as well a programs to improve access to higher education and services to promote retention, increase graduation rates, and facilitate successful entry into the labor market.

We had a sobering, private tour of the museum. The holocaust is something most Belgians never want to forget, a good lesson for us all.

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