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More needs to be done to help refugees get to higher education, expert says

ByRebecca Rosser

Jan 25, 2016

Thomas Crea, associate professor at Boston College’s School of Social Work and head author of the study concludes in his study Refugee higher education: contextual challenges and implications for program design, delivery, and accompaniment that higher education programmes for refugees are not adapted to their circumstances and consequently, this limits its effectiveness.

Crea, who interviewed 122 refugees in Kakuma camp (Kenya), Dzaleka camp (Malawi) and Aman (Jordan) revealed that youngsters’ location is often far away from learning centres and international instructors, which makes the completion of refugees’ higher education pro-grammes more difficult.

Furthermore, the students that appear in Crea’s study complained greatly about the lack of “contextually based examples” and flexibility in regards to deadlines.

The British Council has already declared that “for education to make a truly lasting difference, and the full social benefits it brings to be realised, the quality of the teaching and learning environment must be given greater attention.”

Amanda Gardiner, vice president of sustainability and social innovation at Pearson, has been currently conducting learning programmes for refugees. She brought to light the com-plexity of higher education programmes for refugees. “For example, do we pilot in refugee camps or host communities? Develop interventions for preschool, primary or secondary-aged children? Design for formal or non-formal education?”

For this reason, Crea proposed that prior studies of the area should be carried out and tutors should be aware of the work of non-governmental organisations as well as of the profes-sional opportunities in order to tailor the educational programmes and “create a pipeline so that when students complete their coursework they don’t just drop off then cliff but there is something they can do to use their education in a way that’s meaningful.”

Other challenges affecting the delivery and accomplishment of education programmes are of a political nature. Gardiner stated that “learning does not happen in a vacuum, but is affected by social, political, cultural and other dynamics.”

However, though refugees often encounter themselves in the poorest regions and with very limited access to public services and education, “bypassing local authorities” is not the best option, said Joel Bubbers, the British Council’s country director for Syria. Bubbers, added that “groups that have been successful have recognised the importance of working with and not sidestepping the Lebanese Ministry of Education.”

The UNHRC recognised educational programmes for refugees as a vital part for integration and development of human beings. Nuri Syed Copser, Politics and Anthropology student at the University of Edinburgh and campaigner for Equal Access Edinburgh University, told The Student that education is a vehicle towards the adaptation of refugees to a foreign country.

The University of Edinburgh helps and advises on a great matter of issues to students and members of staff with a refugee status. It has also supported fourteen students and a number of Syrian academics who have fled from the Middle East and other areas as well as having provided financial assistance to a Masters student from Eritrea who was granted refugee status in the UK.

Thomas Crea indicates in his study that, amongst the many benefits of receiving a higher education, refugees presented “feelings of empowerment” and “also a sense of hope”.

Education programmes must address the needs of the communities and boost all refugees’ chances to achieve a better future. For this reason, Beyond aid: educating Syria’s Refugees states that education must not conclude with youngsters but should actually include adults as well. This is because adults without an education or without the ability to prove the accomplishment of superior studies due to the loss of papers and certificates or language barriers “have a less positive view of their future and are more likely to engage in the conflicts that caused their displacement in the first place.”

Currently, 2.8 million Syrian children are not enrolled in any school due to the ongoing conflicts and destructions of cities and public buildings. If predictions made by Save the Children are to be right, the costs of this situation will be 5.4% of Syria’s future GDP, which will hinder the country’s economic development even if or when the conflict ceases. This, now referred to as “the lost generation”.

Non-governmental organisations, donor agencies, host governments and UNICEF have highlighted the importance of education as a path to achieve the recuperation and empowerment of families and communities. Furthermore, it provides a sense of normality and hope for a better and more prosperous future.

Image credit: Flickr: Bengin Ahmad 

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