Education International
Education International

World Refugee Day: Unions promote education for refugees

published 15 June 2010 updated 15 June 2010

This year's World Refugee Day on June 20 has ‘Home’ as its theme, to recognise the plight of 40 million uprooted people around the world. About 10 million of these people are children of special concern to the UN High Commission for Refugees.

Teacher unionists advocating Education for All by 2015 are also working towards educating those children and young people who need particular support, while bodies such as the UNHCR help people find new homes and new futures through resettlement and local integration.

EI and its affiliates have also intervened after many crises to assist refugees, in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Thailand, Somalia, and Sudan.

In March this year, EI commissioned Paloma Bourgonje to produce a study on ‘Education for refugee and asylum-seeking children in OECD countries’. In the four countries where policy was scrutinised: Australia, Spain, Sweden and the UK, it was evident that there was a lack of training for teaching in a multicultural setting. Consequently, teachers found it challenging to support children from diverse backgrounds.

Bourgonje proposed a number of recommendations for teachers, unions, governments, schools and NGOs, to tackle the structural obstacles in order to support integration. She has also stressed the importance of ensuring that no child is denied its right to education:

Of course, most of the time, and where it's possible, refugees prefer to return to their home countries. Nonetheless, and with conflict continuing or escalating in many countries, finding new homes and allowing people to restart their lives is increasingly difficult.

This year, for World Refugee Day, EI affiliates are planning events around the world to highlight the plight of refugees under their care and to advocate on their behalf for the help they need. Affiliates will be asking their members and the wider community to think about what it means to be one of those millions of individual human beings, and to contribute in whatever way possible to support them in rebuilding their lives.