The stories are based on surveys with people who dropped out. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals

 * Stories used for improvisation at meeting in Portugal

Greek story 1*

This is one of the many stories of women who dropped out school. Maria, was a young girl who was living in a remote mountainous village . Her family was poor and her parents’ educational status was quite low. The close-knit society she lived in was full of prejudices and stereotypes regarding the two sexes. Maria could attend the primary school since there was one in her village, but after graduating she would have to travel to a nearby village to be a high-school student. When her mother realized that her daughter would be the only girl among boys and that she had to take the bus every day in order to attend her lessons, or to take part in some after school activities, she refused to let her do so. Her father agreed too, pointing out that since she was fourteen years old, she was old enough to help the family in the fields in a more active way. Besides, a girl’s future is marriage and family. There would be no point in getting more education. Of course all these problems wouldn’t concern her if she were a boy. 

Today, she is a woman with her own family. She feels sorry for the past and she decides to give herself a second chance. Her parents, having realized that their decision which determined their daughter’s life was wrong and having regretted doing this, encourage her to start school again. So, she manages to graduate from high school and she considers the certificate of high school to be real gold in her hands.

Greek story 2

Nikos wanted to abandon school because of some problems with his family who did not supported him. Also he was a victim of bullying. 

He asked his teachers for help , but they didn’t do much, except from a few kind words, so he started to hate school even from the elementary classes. 

Now, he has lessons at a second chance school. If he had known the difficulties he would face without education, he would never have abandoned school 

Polish story 1*

Maria is 13- year- old girl whose problems with school have family background. She is half – orphan because her mother died when she was 9.

Her father took responsibility for her and her siblings. Her father was addicted to alcohol and as a result he didn't have work. Lack of money caused financial problems, he wasn’t able to fulfill their basic needs: food, clothes and shelter. Her situation worsened when her older brother was sent to prison because of drugs. Financial problems, dysfunctional family, lack of parents support pushed her to take an odd job in order to supply the family with much-needed funds for basic family needs. She had a poor school attitude and she was frequently bored by school. She didn’t see the reason to attend to school. High absence in school caused bad marks and she didn’t graduate school.

She had only one true friend who decided to help her overcome school problems. Her friend informed tutor, he increased integration with all students, teachers who decided to enhance her educational skills ( extracurricular activities, time – line to pass some tests, motivation through awards and prizes). 

Polish story 2

Anna was a student of our school when she was 14 years old. She started our school with the same group of students from Primary School since they were in the same class. 

Anna comes from a family belonging to low socio – economic class, where there were many children, her parents didn't have a job, they didn’t have money for the basic family needs. This situation worsened when Eva’s mother died. Eva’s father could took care of the children. At the beginning everything was normal, Eva attended primary school. As time went by this situation worsened mainly because her father had problems with alcohol. 

It was difficult to communicate with him, all money they had was spend on alcohol. They kept arguing all the time. Our school helped them as much as possible - we gave them support such as: clothes, food, school equipment. During this time the situation didn't improve because Eva’s siblings moved out of the house – her older sister had a relationship with a much older man but her older brother was sent to prison because of drugs. 

Anna began to have problems at school, she had bad marks but she managed to pass to next the level of education. She started education in high School. 

When she was in the first class she began to play truant. She received supervision of the educational officer. After many months her situation didn't change . Her brother and sister left school early because they had no motivation to complete in order to get a job and to not end up like her parents, who were unskilled workers with little chance of ever becoming successful in their lives. Eva used to live alone and she didn't go to school by the time Polish Family Court’s had made a decision that she had to be placed in the local Caring – Educational Place. She could attend our school. Eva could continue her education with the same group of students from our school. At the beginning everything seemed to be normal, Eva’s class accepted her, some of the students helped her with lessons, all teachers motivated her. 

This situation turned out when Eva met her older sister. After this meeting her attitude towards school changed, because she knew that her older sister led a lonely life because of her relationship with a rich old man. For a girl whose life was full of financial problems, family violence, no shelter and lack of money for the children’s basic needs , her sister’s situation seemed to be better. That’s why Eva decided to adopt her sister’s model. She stopped studying, she didn't attend school, she stopped going the to Caring – Educational Place. She started to have problems with alcohol and smoking. She was found by the police and she could came back to the Caring – Educational Place. A group of teachers, guardians from the Caring – Educational Place and psychologists tried to help her but she didn't want any help. Her behavior- many problems at school such as: low marks, low level of knowledge, lack of motivation led her to failure. Her only purpose in her life was to make money and live better 

-“there was no place for school or education in my life”, she said.

Everyone wanted to change her point of view, teachers tied to give her a “second chance” – they organized special meetings to ease her difficulties in education, supported her to increase the integration among students, to motivate her through awards and prizes. She rejected help because her style of living was more attractive for her. She was an adult and she still was in the first class all the time. When she was eighteen years old , she was independent, she was adult and according to the polish law she could be eliminated from the list of students.

 She also left the Caring – Educational Place and started her life on her own without plans for the future, without the right profession.

When she was asked about the future, she said: “ It doesn’t matter what I’ll do, where I’ll be, it is important to have money just like my sister. She inspired me because she proved that without proper education and knowledge we can lead a good life”.

She claimed that all teachers at school fulfilled her expectations, all classmates helped her but her personal problems pushed her to this decision.

Polish story 3

Alina is 20 years old. At present she is a student of Gymnasium for Adults. She dropped out of our school during the third year. Speaking about the reasons for leaving school made it clear that the main reason was that her parents weren't interested in her needs and problems. She felt that she wasn’t important to anyone. She never had the support of her parents. Alina admitted that she had to do most of the household duties: cleaning, cooking, shopping, taking care of her younger siblings. She was the “mother” in the house. She admits that she was often too tired to do her homework or learn anything. She had great difficulty with science subjects. Her parents were unable to bring up their children - dad only worked from time to time, her mother did not work at all and did not care about the house or about the children either.

Alina also spoke negatively about the school she attended. She wasn't accepted by her classmates, she didn't like spending time with them. In her class there were a lot of students who could afford fashionable clothes, phones or tours. Alina could not afford such luxuries, it was hard to find a common language with her friends and classmates. She was always on the sidelines. She also said that the teachers at her school had the wrong approach to pupils who have learning difficulties. She says that teachers require more from the weak students than from those who do well at school. She said that students with learning disabilities did not receive appropriate support – they just repeated the same class several times. She thinks that teachers deliberately sunk students without giving them a chance to improve bad results. Alina failed twice at the 3rd grade. She could not count on help from the class teacher, she did not like talking to a school educator who in her opinion wasn't interested in her future - and really did not take any action.

Alina began to get weaker and weaker results - with every bad mark her unwillingness to learn grew. She didn't like the school, which she attended. Her father lost his part-time job and Alina felt obliged to take care of her home. At the age of 17 she started working. She worked as a cleaner, she cleaned private homes and distributed leaflets. At the age of 18 -in accordance to Polish law – she was removed from the list of students of our school.

The family had no interest in her fate. Alina said that her mother was even glad that her daughter began to make money, instead of going to school.

The impulse that made Alina to come back to school and to finish gymnasium was meeting an older woman. Alina was cleaning the house of this woman. The granddaughter of an elderly lady was working in the Municipal Social Welfare, she often visited the family of Alina. As a result, Alina began to attend meetings with a professional counsellor and psychologist. Alina still lives with her family and attends gymnasium for adults - classes are held in the afternoon so she can continue to work in the morning. She has also registered in the labour office, she hopes that she could get a job as a shop assistant. She is going to continue her education in the school of technical profile. She would like to be a cook or a seller. Her main aim is financial independence

Portuguese story 1*

Adelina 16 years old and she doesn't like to get up early. She is used to going to the coffee shop after dinner and staying there until midnight because she has several problems with her family that she wants to keep out of her mind.

When she is at school, other students criticize her for the clothes she wears and her teachers don't understand why she interacts with them using bad manners. She feels lonely and, suddenly, she meets an older boy, also attending her school.

After a few months, she is pregnant and her boyfriend doesn't support her idea of having a baby. After giving birth, she feels depressed and leaves school for good.

Portuguese story 2

When Cristina finished middle school, the civil war started in Mozambique. The regime was oppressive, so her parents decided to come to Portugal, in search of peace and stability.

When she arrived in Portugal, the family stayed in a refugee camp with really bad conditions.

The school she attended was problematic and she didn't fit in, so when she was 14 years old, she dropped out of school. 

She had no motivation to be in school and she started to work.

She has 4 children, one boy and three girls, studying in universities, to whom she transmitted the importance of learning.

Working in a school, she is always trying to understand the reasons that lead some students to drop out. She makes them understand the importance of school and education, encouraging them to never give up.

Her message: We should work and fight to achieve our goals. It's never too late to make our dreams come true. 

Portuguese story 3

Alex was invited to come to our school and tell us about his personal and professional life. In the few minutes that this interview lasted, he managed to teach us what he has learned from years of life experience.

Alex left school too early because he thought that way he could have more time to dedicate to “real” work. Also, he found the subjects too theoretical, even though he was attending a professional course. 

Some years later, he realized he needed the education and the certificates that would allow him to work on his own. So, he sacrificed his personal time and went to night school, combining work and school. Nowadays, he is a certified electrician.

What he taught us...

Alex advised us to study and enjoy school the most we can, while we can. He said that life is a jungle, it's tough for everyone, but tougher for those with no education. Without diplomas and certificates finding a job is almost impossible nowadays, experience alone is worth almost nothing. 

Italian story 1*

Hi, my name is Anthony. My mother is a housewife and my father is a bricklayer. I live in Scampia, one of the most disreputable places in Naples, maybe the worst. For a boy like me to go to school and be educated is a bit difficult, but my parents care about that. So I went to school untill the age of 16; I was at school when I had a terrible piece of news: my father had been involved in a gunfight and he had died and as if this wasn't enough a few days before my mother had lost her job.

Without my father and with my mother unemployed, we were in terrible need for money, so after my father's funeral, I decided to leave school and to start to work. Then I went to the building site where my father used to work and the site manager agreed instantly to give me a job.

Now I'm 19, my life has improved, my mother has started to work and I have decided to go back to school.

Italian story 2

My family is made up of 4 persons: my mother, my father, and my brother. My father is a workman, my mother is a housewife. My brother goes to school and I have a job.

At school I had low grades but I never repeated . During the second year of secondary school I decided to leave the school because I thought I was unable to study. 

So I decided that it would be better for me to find a job

At school I got on well with my teachers except for a few of them 

I left school when I was 16 years old because I thought education was not so important for my life.

Now I work as a barber and I have learned many things : school leaving certificate is important in order to get a good job.

 I will attend a private school to get a specific certification for my job.

I hope that the future will bring great things: to keep doing this job, to learn a lot of new things and probably to go back to school.

Italian story 3

I left the school when I was 16: I repeated the first year of high school and that was for me and my family a big disappointment. 

I thought I was not able to study and for that reason after a few months of the second year of attendance, I decided to leave the school.

Now I work as hairdresser and I like this job!

The only negative thing is the schedule: from 8.30 am to 7 pm. For that reason I don’t have time for myself

At school I had the afternoon to meet friends and for myself.

I don’t think I will go back to school because working as a hairdresser is more rewarding for me and I think I will succeed and I will prove to my family that I am good at doing something.

Turkish story 1 *

One day Ahmet was at school, in Maths lesson, his teacher asked him a hard problem. Ahmet couldn’t solve the problem and his teacher made fun of him. After that Ahmet started to hate his teacher and also Maths lesson. That night he thought about that problem. He told to himself that he would never need it in his life, what he learned in school was useless and he thought he could learn better by himself through reading books. He decided not to go to school anymore. In the next morning, he told to his mother about his decision. His mother and father tried to make him go to school but Ahmet didn’t.

Turkish story 2

Faruk was living in a village. He was going to school every day. He was smart and hard-working. He was imaging to be a doctor every night. When he finished the primary school he couldn't go to high school because of money problems. And he started to work as a farmer. He lived a poor life. He got married. He has got two son and a daughter. He knew the importance of education. So he spent all of his money to children's education. He was always hungry but his children were going to school. Perhaps he couldn't go but his children were going. This was making him happy. After these poor years his children graduated and they became doctors Faruk made the best investment. Perhaps he couldn't do what he wanted. But his children did what they wanted. It was enough for him. 

Turkish story 3

I loved my mids school years. It was like all the lessons had put in total curriculum to make me feel alive and happy. Seeing my family's widening smiles due to my grade notes, made me feel proud. It had been usual for me to bring my letter of appreciation. Regardless of which specialty I could chase, being an engineer was my biggest dream. I was thinking that I was born to be an engineer. At the day, I graduated from mid school, there was my ration card and my graduation certificate in my hand, I. had taken the last photo of my happiness.

When I came home, I hugged my mom and dad. My sister and brother were high school students, they would arrive one our later. My father came early so I decided to have the same conversation that we had every year. I started with the same request: "Dad I want to go to an anatolian high school.". My father had always left that question unanswered, but he finally answered it unexpectedly. "I can't afford your education son, I can't send you to the college.". My whole world collapsed but I stayed silent. I sad, "It's OK, Dad." calmly. I went to my room and closed the door slowly. I couldn't even cry because of my disappointment. When my sister came home, she hugged my mother and father with her certificate of participation in her hand. She understood that something was wrong with me after she saw my face. She called me to go to her room and asked me: "What's wrong with you Ismet? Tell me". I answered:" He told me that, 'He couldn't afford my education, he couldn't send me to the college.'"

On a normal day of my summer semester, me and my father were going back home from the field, I asked one more time but not the same question. "Dad, send me to a general high school." But his answer was the same. "I told you son, I can't afford." Then, he added. "But I can send you to a technical high school." I bobbed before he saw me. I knew that would never gonna work. My father sent me to a technical high school in September. From the beginning to the end of the school I hated all of the lessons and I hadn't paid any attention, I had no hope for my future. My exam results declined like a bird with a broken wing. As long as my exam results continued to decline, my number of friends was increasing. Irfan, Mert, Selim, Onur and I began to play truant, to go to coffeehouses. We were going to the coffeehouses to drink tea and smoke. Every time I came home I was hearing father's angry complaining. I wasn't responding like he did to me for years. Until the last day of the first grade of the high school. I changed from the clever, happy, hardworking Ismet to idle, lazy, unhappy, smoker, coffeehouse addict and aimless Ismet. But this was not what I wanted. What I wanted was impossible because of my father. I didn't want to live a life that I curse everyday I start. The life that I want is beyond from being real so I never minded both of them and decided to choose a new path. Before my first grade ended I asked my father to take me from the school permanently. His respond was a slap to my face. Until the first grade ended, I kept silent and stayed sullen. On the last day of school I saw my father walking through to the assistant principle's room.

When I came home I changed my clothes and began to look out of the window to see my dad's coming. When my father came he walked through the living room and by doing this he didn't even look at my face. So I walked into the living room with cowardly steps. He exactly said that "Congrats son! You couldn't pass your class because of your absenteeism. So I made the assistant principal delete your registration. 'Finally' I thought. My dad finally did something I want. With the start of the summer holiday I began to seek for a job. Some places that I applied didn't hire me because they thought that I'm too young. Other found me inexperienced and unqualified. One day I met my high school friend Onur at a market place. He knew that I'm looking for a job. So he offered me a job that changed my life. "My brother and his canteen workers gonna change their position with another canteen group but some of the workers don't want to go so he is looking for new workers. If you want it, I can arrange a meeting with my brother for you?".

This was the best thing in these times, so I answered with joy.

"Arrange a meeting if it's in fate it will happen.",

We came to the University to meet Onur's brother. Onur's brother Fatih explained the job to me. The "Sudden change of place gave me a lot of trouble but the most important one is the need of workers. If you accept, we will depart from here in 3 days. I wanted a new life and I was thinking that the job is a milestone so I accepted but I made it uncertain by saying. "But first, let me tell this to my family". He accepted and gave me two days for it saying: "OK but let me know if it is certain, you have two days." When I came home words were ready in my head. I called all my family to the living room and I made my speech and explained my decision. My father sad no word, my mother and sister began to cry and my brother tried to convince me not to go but I had already made up my mind so I called Fatih to say that I would go with him. Three days later me, Fatih, Salih and the others got onto the bus. After ten hours long traveling we arrived at Ankara's bus terminal ASTI. Then we went to the house we were gonna stay, we went to the school that we would work. When we arrived I looked around to see where we are. When I saw the signboard, I felt a pain in my heart. We were in the University, Faculty of Engineering. The University was one of my dreams. Then, Fatih, other workers and I got inside.

The day schools open I began to imagine while putting tea for our customers. I imagine how it feels to be in classes, sitting on these old desks. I might have a chance to be a student if something had happened differently. But it was too late, too late for everything.

I was in one of my dream university's faculty of engineering as a tea seller...