Educators speak up on the rights of migrants, refugees, and IDPs
Some of the highlights of the EIRAF Forum on Migrants, Refugees, and Internally Displaced Persons co-organised with the UN Special Rapporteur for Education on 29th April were the experiences shared by a refugee teacher in Uganda and union leaders from Europe and Asia Pacific.
In her submission, Stella Oryang, a South Sudanese refugee teacher in one of the schools in Palabek refugee settlement in northern Uganda, believes the school is the safest place for children and that education is key in improving the lives of the refugees.
“I see a brighter future for refugees through education. There are many things they need to learn and unlearn by exposure to education. I therefore ask for improvements to be made to enhance refugee education to improve ourselves and our country”, she concluded after highlighting challenges faced by refugee children and teachers.
The Covid 19, she said, negatively impacted refugee children and teachers as many students did not return to school, mainly because of pregnancy and early marriage. Many others did not return because they assumed adult roles as the head of the family. They were either orphaned or the parents were missing.
After the reopening of schools, many teachers were subjected to teaching with face masks all day and families begun associating them with corona virus. Families would hide when the teachers tried to visit them in their homes to assist with self-study materials. The available self-study materials could not be used by many of the children because they were written in English, a language the children were encountering for the first time.
Without stable power source, the children could not access distance education. Even then radios, smart phones, or computers were completely absent.
Asia Pacific experience
“The challenges faced by the migrants, the refugees and the IDPs as well as the host/receiving countries are quite the same regardless of the continent or region”, said Anand Singh, Regional Director EI Asia Pacific.
He informed the forum that the Asia-Pacific region is home to more than 4.2 million refugees, 2.7 million IDPs and 2.2 million stateless persons. This represents about 46 percent of the global refugee population.
” Migration and displacement”, he added, “are driven by a variety of causes, both voluntary and involuntary but the most dominant forms are labour migration, education, family reunification, political and armed conflicts, and disasters”. Singh added that smuggling and trafficking of persons also contributes to the irregular migration cycles.
The impact of COVID-19 on migrants and refugees has further forced them into a vulnerable situation as they are unable to protect and provide for themselves and their families. The situation is particularly grim for girls who are forced to stay home, do house chores, and take care of their families in the best-case scenarios, and for the worst sold into a slavery or married off to relieve the burden for their families.
Although the Global Compacts for Migration and on Refugees are firmly embedded in the 2030 Agenda, the Asia-Pacific region, is not on track to achieve any of the 17 SDGs by 2030, therefore there is an added urgency in the region and at the national level to accelerate progress significantly.
He advised that as representatives of the front-line workers who contribute to shaping the next generation of individuals, we must continue to: protect and promote human and labour rights, empower the most vulnerable and marginalised groups, in particular children and women, educate and eradicate all forms of discrimination, and acknowledge and align the interdependent and cross-cutting issues that have direct and indirect impact on the future.
Rosella Benedetti, the International Secretary of UIL-Scuola, Italy, shared the European experience. Europe is home to many immigrants and refugees and while some countries are open and welcoming to them, others are closed. Immigrants face challenges of travel restrictions, language barrier, and lack of knowledge of the laws pertaining to host countries.
While in Italy migrants attend public school freely there are still challenges with customising the system to suit them since they come from a different background, others prefer to work to survive. The lack of resources for some classes with many students and the lack of training for teachers does not provide the optimal conditions to give the maximum to these children (migrants and refugees).
In Europe, it is necessary to talk about inclusion within education and the need to promote diversity of these sectors. Research shows that teachers are not prepared for students or people which come from different socio-economic backgrounds, so there is need to ensure integration for migrants and refugees. teachers in the socio-economic system within the country at regional and local levels.