In the frame of the ETUCE/EFEE project “European Sectoral Social Partners in Education promoting effective integration of migrants and refugees in education”, a delegation of education unions and employers’ representatives met in Madrid on 16 and 17 May 2018, to discuss good practices and challenges in the Spanish education system with regards to policies on inclusion and integration.

Throughout the study visit, participants learned from Spanish representatives about the impact of enduring budget cuts, education system segmentation and the lack of a national strategy addressing specifically the integration of migrants and refugees in schools and education institutions. While learning from the different social partners, school communities, parents and students representatives’ perspectives and good practices in the course of the first day, the delegation had the chance to visit the ACE (Aula de Compensacion Educativa) center of the La Senda high school and to witness the difficult professional and working conditions of teachers and educators dealing with students of migrant origins and from disadvantaged background. Teachers, trainers, the school leader and union representatives from the school explained the potential support they would need to deliver quality education to those students coming from the most disadvantaged background. They shed light on the biggest obstacles they face for a real inclusion in education, including the deteriorating working conditions of those teachers working in public schools from the most disadvantaged areas: precarious contracts and lack of continuity in teaching and learning was felt as one of the biggest challenge to effective integration. The study delegation had the opportunity to draw the attention of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport to the challenges facing schools and education institutions in this regard. 

The ETUCE-EFEE project aims to promote successful methods of migrant education in schools as well as evaluating current policies and practices, to establish a concrete set of proposals and recommendations for national member organisations and governments. Two additional study visits in Serbia and Belgium and two seminars in Denmark and Cyprus will be organized in the coming months. A research report, a video documentary, practical guidelines and a draft quality framework of effective practices are amongst the main deliverables of the project.

You can find more information about the project here.

Education is a human right and a public good helping to enable people at all stages in their lives to achieve their maximum potential. This includes the right to learn and right to teach for refugees and migrants in every corner of the world.

June 20th is an important day to recognise the hardships and challenges refugees have been through and celebrate their strength and courage. It is also imperative to continue to advocate that they are treated with dignity and demand the full respect of their human rights by governments, political actors and national institutions.
Educators on all continents have been on the foreground of refugee and migrant issues, as migrants and refugees themselves and as teachers and support personnel working to create welcoming schools and safe environments for all learners. 

This year in conjunction with World Refugee Day, Education International and a consortium of 10 partners, launches “Resilient teachers, students and education systems in South Sudan and Uganda” (BRICE), a project funded by the European Commission and led by Oxfam IBIS.

Safe, quality education for all learners

The project, which will be implemented from 2018 to 2022 in South Sudan and Uganda, will contribute to improved access and completion of safe quality education for learners in fragile and crisis-affected environments through the delivery of safe quality education models and continuous in-service professional development, as well as multi-stakeholder dialogue and data collection.

Civil war and violent conflicts in South Sudan have totaled close to 2.2 million refugees. The majority of South Sudanese refugees have fled to Uganda where the current number is close to 1.03 million. An average 2,000 refugees cross to Uganda every day and over 60 percent of the new arrivals are children.

More than 85 percent of the total south Sudanese refugee population are women and children who need education, as well as child protection and Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) prevention. In total, there are 1.8 million children out of school in South Sudan. In this project, Education International will lead the global advocacy strategy and coordinate the teacher’s professional development in Uganda.

The rights of refugee children and teachers

More than 1,000 teachers will benefit from professional development support and around 100 politicians and officials will be invited to participate in a dialogue on how to improve conditions and access to education for children and teachers in conflict affected areas.

Over the past few years, Education International and affiliates have been developing numerous activities to fulfil the rights of refugee children and teachers worldwide and facilitate their integration in their host education system.

Capacity building, research, including the compilation study Education: Hope for Newcomers in Europe and advocacy activities co-funded by OSF, have been carried out in nine European countries since 2016.

In Jordan and Lebanon, training activities were implemented with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. A regional workshop was also held in Addis Ababa in September 2017 and several affiliates from African countries have started developing work in this area.

A l’occasion de la Journée Mondiale des Réfugiés, Gloria Ihirwe Ntakirutinka, jeune réfugiée rwandaise poursuivant des études supérieures au Sénégal, fait part de son expérience et de son combat en faveur de l’accès à l’enseignement supérieur pour les réfugié(e)s. 

Pouvez-vous vous présenter brièvement ? Pourquoi avez-vous décidé de militer en  faveur de l’éducation des réfugiés ?

Je me nomme Ihirwe, j'ai 21 ans et je suis étudiante en troisième année de droit public. J’ai  grandi dans une famille qui a trouvé refuge dans un pays d’Afrique de l’Ouest après avoir fui le génocide rwandais. Ce pays –le Togo – fut celui qui me vit grandir. En grandissant je voyais mes parents - surtout ma mère - qui travaillaient très dur pour subvenir à nos besoins. Devenue plus grande, comprenant mon statut de réfugiée et la situation de ma famille qui avait tout perdu, je compris qu’une seule chose pouvait m’aider à atteindre mes objectifs : l’éducation. 

Quel a été votre parcours afin de poursuivre vos études dans l’enseignement supérieur ?

Après l’obtention du baccalauréat, j’étais désemparée car je savais que mes parents ne seraient pas en mesure de payer mes études supérieures qui s’avéraient très chères. Quelle ne fut pas ma joie lorsque je fus sélectionnée, après avoir déposé une candidature à une bourse d’excellence du Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les Réfugiés me permettant de poursuivre mes études pour la durée d’une licence au Sénégal. Alors que je suis en train d’effectuer ma dernière année de licence, je continue de rechercher une bourse pour effectuer un master l’année prochaine car la bourse dont je bénéficie actuellement ne prend pas en charge les études de second cycle. 

Quelles sont les difficultés auxquelles vous avez été et êtes confrontée en tant que réfugiée, pour accéder à des études supérieures?

Trouver une bourse n’est pas facile la plupart du temps car dans nos pays d'asile, nous n'avons pas accès aux bourses des nationaux alors que normalement nous devrions être traités comme des nationaux. Par ailleurs, l’accès à des bourses étrangères peut s’avérer difficile à cause de nos titres de voyage qui parfois paralysent l'avancée du dossier. Sans bourse, faute de moyens financiers de nos familles, il est très difficile d’accéder à l’enseignement supérieur. 

Que signifie pouvoir accéder à l’enseignement supérieur pour un(e) jeune réfugié(e) ?

Parfois, les réfugiés sont victimes de xénophobie car ils sont perçus comme des personnes incapables qui vivent aux crochets de la société. Or, à travers l’accès à l’éducation, c’est précisément notre autonomie, notamment financière, que nous recherchons car nous voulons sortir nos familles de la misère et être de vraies aides pour nos parents qui se sont donnés corps et âmes pour nous offrir un futur. 

Quel message souhaitez-vous délivrer à ce sujet en cette journée mondiale consacrée aux réfugiés ?

Je dirais que la plus belle chose à offrir à toute personne est l’éducation, mais pour des personnes qui ont tout perdu, c’est plus que cela, c’est leur offrir l' opportunité de bâtir leur vie, l'éducation est comme une main forte ou encore une voix rassurante qui te murmure à l'oreille que « tout peut être reconstruit en partant de rien » et cela te pousse à espérer que tout ira pour le mieux. 

Le système semble parfois oublier les jeunes refugiés, filles comme garçons, qui luttent pour construire une vie, pour eux-mêmes, pour leurs familles et pour l’ensemble de la communauté. Nous aimerions avoir les mêmes chances d'accès à l’éducation que les nationaux , nous  aimerons aussi une reconnaissance de nos titres de voyage car parfois même avec un bon dossier, on se voit refuser un visa. 

« A défaut d’éducation et de qualifications nous permettant de bâtir notre futur, nous sommes condamnés à espérer l’aide de la communauté. Or, si l’on avait eu en temps voulu, l’opportunité d’étudier comme les autres, nous pourrions changer le monde, c’est à dire nous-même, nos familles, la communauté et apporter notre pierre à l’édifice », voilà ce que dirait cette jeunesse laissée sur le bord de la route et qui se retrouvera contre son gré à la charge de tous, si rien ne change.

Manning was named National Teacher of the Year in the United States. She has taught English and math at the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, for seven years, and her refugee students come from countries all over the world, including Syria, Mexico, and Sudan. While her students don’t often feel safe in the current political climate, Manning has helped transform her school by providing a welcoming and supportive environment. Manning is an active member of her local and state union and serves on the executive committee of the Washington Education Association. Here come a few highlights from her conversation with National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García on 11 June 2018 [1].

"I’ve learned how to be fearless from my students. I teach immigrant refugee students. My students have gone through unspeakable circumstances to come to the United States, a nation that gives them hope to be someone. I watch their innate hopefulness and fearlessness in coming into this new community, a community that in many ways has not welcomed them. They come to school everyday; they’re focused, they’re dedicated, they’re committed to their dreams, and becoming productive members of society and citizens. So, all I have to do is look at them, and they teach me how to be fearless.

Our current administration has not been welcoming to my students, and I wanted to ensure my students that I was [meeting Trump at the White House] for them. There was a question: Should I go? And they all said, unanimously, “Yes. Because he needs to know about us.” And so we sat down and we had the students write letters about their journeys to the United States and what it meant to them: their dreams and hopes, and how they want to give back to the United States. There was also advice for our current president on how he can help improve their lives in the United States, like using supportive language that doesn’t diminish them as whole groups of people. (…)

Everytime educators leave the classroom in order to advocate collectively, our love for our students is used against us. Sometimes, we have to leave the classroom to get the things we need for our kids, because at the heart of every teacher is our students. At the heart of every decision is what our students need. It’s very comfortable to be in our classrooms. But, (…) ‘Life happens outside your comfort zone.’ We have to be willing to get uncomfortable and face some of that negative messaging that we might receive in order to really make deep impacts on what we know is best for kids.

If the decisions that are being made are negatively impacting our kids, we cannot sit idly by, even if it means we’re going to face challenges in the community. Because ultimately, if students truly make up the foundation of our arguments about why we are outside the classroom advocating, no one can argue with us."

[1] The full video of the Facebook live is available here.

The conference “Esperienze e proposte per l’apprendimento dell’Italiano L2 nelle classi multilingue e multiculturali” held in Castellammare del Golfo on 30 may 2018 brought together 80 participants to discuss experiences and proposals on ways to improve education for newcomers, with a focus on teaching Italian as a second language in a multilingual and multicultural context.

In particular, the outcomes and deliverables (online language courses) of the project “Una lingua per il lavoro” carried out with financial support from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF 2014-2020) were presented. Through this project, Trapani’s Adult Learning Center joined forces with local partners (Istituto Comprensivo S. Bagolino and two associations), to develop specialized language training courses associated with introductory vocational training modules, building upon activities initiated in 2016-17 with support from Education International and IRASE-UIL Scuola. 

Representatives from the university Ca’ Foscari of Venezia and the University of Palermo confronted their experiences with regards to reaching out to female migrants and developing language training modules in migrants’ mother tongues. 

Sonia Grigt, author of “The Journey of Hope: Education for refugee and unaccompanied children in Italy”, presented the outcomes and recommendations formulated by Education International on refugees’ education both at national and European levels, building upon the activities carried out with affiliates throughout Europe and Italy since 2016. She insisted in particular on the different aspects of inclusion in education and measures needed beyond intensive language courses, the necessity to coordinate amongst the various concerned actors in the field (local authorities, accommodation centres, etc.), to disseminate and sistematise good practices developed locally and finally, to design sustainable and predictable funding mechanisms for schools and educational institutions in order to be able to develop comprehensive and long-term integration strategies. Copies of the EI report were handed over to key stakeholders participating in the event.