By Misheck Kakonde
The Author of this article is an author of the book peering into Zambian Cultures. His trained in Cultures and History (BAED)- University of Zambia and a Master in Middle East Studies- (University of Southern Denmark). Misheck is also volunteering with TMF, as part of the Students and Youth in Action for World Refugee Day Campaign.
From the onset of this article, I must be able to mention that in terms of numbers only about 3% of refugees are having access to high education in the world.
While this shows that world governments, Education institutions, regulatory boards in the education system and human rights organisations need to continue harmonizing, advocating and ensuring that the environment in the education systems is conducive for refugees who wish to advance their studies.
It is important to note that access to education by refugees requires coordinated efforts. This means that wherever the refugees come from, if they have the necessary education documents or willingness to enrol for studies the host country must be quick to incorporate and accept them in their education system.
The above can be achieved if for example the European Union education systems continue to have same standards for International English Testing systems (IELTS) or any other qualifying standard systems, this also should apply to other host countries in the world. To do this, the European Union and the entire world must cooperate to continue setting up centres within the Education systems that allow for international language proficiency systems at a cheaper or no fee rate for refugees. This is because many refugees wish to contribute to society, study and contribute to society but the fees for proficiency tests in host countries are expensive.
Secondly, education systems in the world must be open to younger refugees who wish to enrol in higher schools. This can only be achieved, when individual states put up standards that facilitate and give a fair competition and level in line with the refugee’s background but is close to national standards of the host country.
One of the major barriers in accessing education for refugees is language, language acts as a barrier due to less interpretation and understanding of various themes in the curriculums. However, to reach the objective of 15% education access for refugees by 2030, governments within the world need to ensure language fees are free for all refugees. Also, when refugees have access to free language schools it allows them to excel and enrol in formal education.
Culture, culture defines how a certain society lives. However, if not well analysed culture acts as a barrier to education especially to the girl child who in some cultures is advised to stay home. The worldwide member states must continue to put up deliberate policies that discourage women to stay home. Also, every refugee be it a man or woman must be given the opportunity to study and excel in academics.
There must be deliberate policy implementations that allow for trade certificates for refugees who wish to have a trade in a certain field for example carpentry, becoming an electrician or a trade chosen by refugees.
This is possible if there is tolerance and individual family house holds in the host countries, the host members and even refugee guardians or parents must teach their young ones to have attributes of coexistence with each other. Also, refugees must be open to associate with host countries children both in school setups and off school set ups. Also, to encourage student’s interactions, this could be done by facilitating for home visits among day care children, kinder gardens children, high school pupils or among tertiary institutions students, this allows cultural appreciation among host countries children and refugee children. This possible if institutions of learning put up policies that embrace student’s diversity.
This resonates well with words of the young refugee Kamala, 10, a Syrian refugee in Golzow in Germany who says “They want to know about us, and we want to know about them. There is so much to tell and explain. Sometimes I translate for the others into Arabic or German.”
Also, educators in various setups in schools and tertiary institutions must have the required training, flexibility and enough resources to teach students with diverse needs and learning styles such as those with refugee backgrounds.
Individual students could offer help to fellow students who happen to be refugees. This could be achieved if the students in host countries in their free time, could interact and offer tutorship to refugee students. Also, such interactions allow for better language assimilation from the part of refugee students.
Lastly, all students, including students with a refugee background, can support their peers in accessing education. Students and youth engagement support values of solidarity, help to develop language skills, empathy, develop friendships, while also being more involved in the host country. By giving the chance to contribute concretely through volunteering activities help to build self-esteem and to develop concrete skills to develop in life education or work.
It is also because ‘we’ often tend to see young refugees as “beneficiaries” of services, as ‘participants’, rather than active contributors. It is so wrong. Hence, all students could work in helping young refugees access education.
My appeal is that more inclusion for refugees in the education sector is done and help by host countries. Also, fellow students should extend the help to refugees, equally refugees must be supported with their endeavours to contribute to the host societies activities, this can be done by giving the refugees the spaces required to flourish, this adds to the 15% education access for refugees by 2030.