Our region holds immense potential with one of the youngest populations on the planet. But too many are left behind. Up to a third of our young people dropped out of school early and have no training or employment. This situation perpetuates poverty and social exclusion, where informal jobs become the only solution, leading to precarious living conditions.
The Mediterranean New Chance (MedNC) project is designed to support the social and professional integration of young people into the world of work, particularly those who are not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEETs). Led by the Union for the Mediterranean, the project is currently being implemented in eight countries across the Mediterranean region, including Algeria, Egypt, France, Lebanon, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia.
MedNC’s remarkable goals include strengthening Euro-Mediterranean cooperation to enable young people to get back into education, access the job market and become active members of society. The project achieves this through an extended pan-Mediterranean “Second Chance School” network, which includes over 13 schools in the previously mentioned countries working to enable pupils to develop “skills that will allow them to embark on a strategy of lifelong learning while supporting the innovation and the growth of the economy”.
However, MedNC does more than tackle large-scale issues including youth unemployment and social alienation: it fundamentally changes people’s lives. To better understand the impact of this project, we spoke to the founder and Principal, as well as a current pupil, at El Llindar, a MedNC-supported Second Chance School based in Barcelona, Spain.
Begonya Gasch Yagüe is not just the founder and Director General of El Llindar – she’s also been committed to education her whole life. The daughter of a teacher, she spent her career studying education and her lifelong focus has been “in relation to education on the margins [of society].” In her own words, she has always found
“Education [to be] one of the best instruments to be able to achieve and mobilise ourselves to make the world a better place for everyone.”
This belief is what drove her to setup El Llindar alone in 2004 with just eight students – and she now presides over a flourishing school with 64 professionals and over 400 students.
For Begonya and all her students, the MedNC project is more than just aspirational policy: in recent years, the number of young people leaving education has kept increasing and unemployment affects almost 1 in 3 young people in the region For Begonya’s students, these challenges are real – but they are surmountable thanks to El Llindar and schools like it around the Mediterranean.
At the highest level, Begonya believes that the cooperation throughout the Second Chance Schools network is vital to tackle early school leaving and youth unemployment, and cites her own experience visiting a sister school in Marseille as vital for El Llindar’s development. On a practical level, MedNC’s involvement in the Second Chance School network has allowed for the project to generate “a greater capacity for political dialogue and political visibility”, as well as “develop mobility projects with young professionals around the Mediterranean.”
However, the true power of MedNC is in the transformative effect it has on the students. Current El Llindar student, Cheikhou from Senegal, couldn’t agree more:
“They have helped me a lot… [now] I can work, travel, return to Senegal… my experience at El Llindar has changed my world.”
When he first arrived in Spain, in poor health and speaking hardly any Spanish, El Llindar helped him to find his way: “I was in the presence of someone who… could explain things to me [after that] … I was fine, [and able to] looking beyond.” Thanks to his experiences at El Llindar, Cheikhou’s dream now is to open a similar school in Africa. “I wanted to help but didn’t know how, but when I got here, I said here’s the key.”
Not only is Cheikhou inspired to start his own educational institution, he feels strongly that the world needs more Second Chance Schools: “I wish I could talk to the president of Spain, the first thing I’m going to say is that we want other Llindar… for me, there are many, many people who could take advantage… study… do everything [they can] … and fight for their future.” For Begonya, Cheikhou is a wonderful example of what El Llindar is all about: the school’s greatest success is the mindset of the students, both past and present. The fact that her students “want to have a place in the world” and achieve more is the true power of El Llindar, and the MedNC project.
Project: Mediterranean New Chance (MedNC)