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Educators’ optimism and conviction evident as refugee education receives attention it deserves

The impact of education on the lives of refugee children was heard loud and clear as teachers, union leaders, politicians, and civil society actors set the tone early at Education International’s conference in Stockholm.

 

With Education International (EI) Deputy General Secretary, and plenary moderator, Haldis Holst opening the Conference on Refugee Education with the haunting words from Warsan Shire’s poem Home, the stage was set for what has quickly become an engaging and complex two days of discussion.

However, not even the poem, nor the extensive background reading material, could truly convey the reality of education and refugees for participants like the personal story of Palestinian teacher Hanan Al Hroub.

The 2016 recipient of the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize exposed for all to see the true hardships and challenges endured as a refugee. Her experience of growing up in a Palestinian refugee camp fueled her desire to educate others, something she continues today in both the classroom and around the world.

“Palestine has represented a model for the reality of education in times of crisis, and with the rapid growth of regional events, it has become the subject of the topic that requires a participatory work, employing both the sources and resource,” said Al Hroub in her plenary remarks. She stressed to those in attendance of the “importance of integrating civics and citizenship, as well as the issue of human rights values ??into the curriculum,” in order to prevent students from sliding toward “isolation, frustration and extremism.”

With her words carrying the weight of legitimacy and clarity in the midst of what is commonly referred to as a ‘crisis,’ participants were treated to a day of in-depth discussion and hands-on workshops aimed at addressing the role of public education in strengthening values and helping to prevent cultural clashes as millions flee war and disaster.

“Education is not the only solution, but there is no solution without education” – Fred van Leeuwen

Fred van Leeuwen, EI’s General Secretary, made it clear that there is no single solution to ensuring all refugee children receive a quality education.

“This conference will show that the schooling of children of forced migrants, documented or not, is a joint responsibility of government, civil society, parents, students, organised labour and the teaching profession,” he said. However, when it came to identifying the root causes that are displacing families, especially in the Middle East, his criticism was direct. “It is impossible to watch the horrible, brutal events in Aleppo every day without yearning for the political will and determination to open the geo-political trap in which Syrians are caught. We are seeing a deadly combination of doing little to resolve the conflict combined with not wanting to accept those who are running for their lives; a two-step process of diverting one’s eyes.”

The conference, which continues through the 22 of November, should result in many concrete ideas involving both integration and education of refugees. As day one looked more at the systemic challenges facing refugees, day two moves the discussion into the classroom where practices and curriculum become the focus.

To view the conference plenary live, please click here.

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