Teacher unions focus on plight of refugee children’s education

published 15 October 2015 updated 21 October 2015

From Europe to the United States, teacher unions are urging their governments to both welcome more refugees and to ensure that schools open their doors to make quality education available to refugee children.

The latest UNICEF education report reveals that the conflict in Syria has forced 52,000 teachers to flee and has left 2.4 million children with no access to schools. In response to these staggering figures, affiliate unions of Education International (EI) are speaking up and taking action to see that governments fulfil their responsibilities and open their borders and schools to refugees.

In an open letter to its prime minister, the Polish teachers’ union ZNP called on the government to not only open classrooms to refugee children, where they face the possibility of culture shock, stereotyping and exposure to a new language, but to work closely with the parents in order to create positive and safe quality learning environments. The union condemned the government for its indecisiveness in dealing with the refugee situation.

“We cannot calmly watch as politicians are struggling to stave off the moment when you will need to take concrete decisions and actions,” read the letter, adding that the government must take action to see refugees moved out of inhospitable camps as soon as possible and immersed into Polish society.

In Germany, the union Verband Bildung und Erziehung(VBE) is calling for increased resources, such as psychologists, interpreters and teachers, directed to education in the wake of the refugee situation. The union also wants to see that teachers receive training in order to properly care for and educate the refugee students.

Across the Atlantic, the Executive Council of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has passed a resolution on the “Migration Crisis,” which principally calls upon the US Government to vastly increase the number of refugees accepted into the country. The AFT has also pledged its support to schools and communities across the country in order to help students make the transition to life in America.