In Douarnenez, a welcoming place to get out of school phobia



The place still breathes new. Instead of a former roadside restaurant at the entrance to Douarnenez, a multi-activity reception room now adjoins the kitchen, the offices and the coaching office where the site’s founder, Isabelle Coisy, officiates. This Tuesday, September 13, the association “La compagnie des zébrés”, created in November 2019, offers one of its two weekly mornings of group support.

Five college and high school students are hunched over their computers. They are between 13 and 17 years old and have one thing in common: having left the traditional classrooms because of school phobia. Supervisor, Rocio Bordeje, a former civil engineer, goes from table to table. No revision program or compulsory exercises. “We adapt to a different collective each time. It is a question of accompanying, not of making an alternative class. The main objective is already to get these teenagers out of their rooms”.

The children and parents who arrive here all come out of a long therapeutic wandering. Young people are broken, convinced that they are worth nothing

“A tsunami that takes the whole family”

At the opening, in early 2022, three first youngsters braved their anxiety. Isabelle Coisy had no doubts about the needs. “School phobia is not new. I experienced this myself when I was 15, in 2001. I finished my high school years by correspondence at Cned. My children were also affected. It took years and an obstacle course for me to identify the cause, it seems genetic”.

In his case, a (late) diagnosis of HPI (High Intellectual Potential) shed light on the malaise. “All the teenagers we welcome here have different profiles, they are part of what I call the ring of neurodiversity. Whether they are autistic Asperger’s or carriers of Dys disorders, ADD / H (attention disorders), HPI or others, some of them have suffered from bullying at school and live in great isolation that we want to break.

Volunteer and president of the association, Isabelle’s mother, Sophie Cosmao, 59, brings here “the help she would have liked to find 20 years ago for her children”. This Tuesday morning, she took care of the cakes. Nine middle and high school students have enrolled since the start of the school year; four other families, from Brest to Lorient, are waiting for a place. “The children and parents who arrive here all come out of a long therapeutic wandering. Young people are broken, convinced that they are worth nothing. School phobia is a tsunami that takes the whole family,” explains Isabelle.

My friends turned their backs on me. I broke down and burned out in December. Even if it’s only once a week, the group here makes me feel good. There are not the same barriers, we help each other

“Coming here freed me”

Enora, a 17-year-old from Douarneniste, left high school in January 2022. The 1st year student, enrolled at the Cned, has been taking part in the association’s workshops since March 2022. In a few months, the young girl regained her confidence. “Coming here freed me,” she breathes, not without announcing that she will continue the distanciel “at least until the baccalaureate”. The phobia took hold in second class, when she had to leave the small Diwan establishments and face school transport “which made her vomit every morning”. A breakup, after a repeat year, was the breaking point.

Nino, 18, has dealt with “his hypersensitivity” and his high potential since 4th grade. “I followed a choppy schooling, being sick all the time. My friends turned their backs on me. I broke down and burned out in December. Even if it’s only once a week, the group here makes me feel good,” he says. “There are not the same barriers, we help each other. I even validated my 1st and my French baccalaureate in July”.

Well taken care of, the signs of school phobia can become an opportunity for these young people. By understanding their difference, they will also preserve their future

35 € the morning

If only 1% to 2% of school-age children were affected by school phobia, « The company of zebras » receives regular calls « from all over Brittany ». “Apart from offering half-time which solves nothing, most schools are helpless. Returning to class after the confinements did not help. The task is immense and I have the feeling that the gap is only widening,” sighs Isabelle Coisy.

Admittedly, the model proposed here is fragile. “The premises belong to my brother, we did the work ourselves. If we charge €35 for group mornings, it is to keep our four supervisors”. Faithful to the adventure, the sophrologist, Laëtitia Streck, 37, knows what she is talking about. “I myself suffered throughout my schooling, without knowing what I had. I cracked later, by having a depression at 30 years old”.

Isabelle Coisy does not budge: “Well taken care of, the signs of school phobia can become an opportunity for these young people. By understanding their difference, they will also preserve their future.”

To contact the association, send an e-mail to laciedeszebres@gmail.com

In Douarnenez, a welcoming place to get out of school phobia