2018 - 2022
Funding received from:
Recognizing the protracted nature of refugee situations, the 2019-2030 UNHCR education strategy prioritizes the integration of refugees into the national education systems of host countries. While this strategy may increase refugee children and youth's access to 'inclusive and equitable quality education' (SDG4), it fails to recognize the limbo in which refugees find themselves: they are non-citizens who cannot access the durable futures that education promises them. REBuilD challenges existing, nation-state centered paradigms of education for development. The central research question is: how do different models of education contribute to building durable futures for individual refugees and for their local and transnational communities? To answer this question, we used interviews, classroom observations, and in-depth engagement with two of the largest refugee communities at present: those who have fled Syria and Somalia. REBuilD is a collaboration between the Peace Research Institute Oslo and Harvard University. The Consortium further includes the University of Nairobi in Kenya and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Based on this work, our partner, PositiveNegatives, produced animations on refugee education for use by practitioners and other stakeholders in this field. Data collection in Lebanon was led by Harvard Graduate School of Education in cooperation with American University of Beirut and took place October 2018 – May 2019 in three schools (2 public and 1 private). The team conducted 101 classroom observations in three schools (2 public and 1 private), 3 interviews each with 18 students, including an identity mapping exercise (54 total), interviews with 16 parents and 18 teachers, a focus group with 5 students and 75 student writing prompts. The team has furthermore engaged in ongoing conversations with NGOs working on refugee education in Lebanon and with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and their teacher coaches. Emerging observations and final results have also been presented at conferences and seminars. The team has drafted analytic profiles of each student based on initial analysis of student and parent interviews and final analysis and writing took place subsequently. Doctoral researcher Hassan Aden started his four-year program at Gothenburg University in April 2018 and has successfully defended his thesis in a mock defence. In May 2019, we hosted a kick-off workshop in Nairobi with the key researchers on the Kenyan case, and in June, a training workshop was held to agree on tools and procedures for Nairobi, while doctoral work in Dadaab was ongoing. Data collection in two urban public schools (boys/girls) was completed and involved 16 classroom observations and 32 interviews. In Dadaab, data collection in two schools (one private, one agency-run) was completed, resulting in 22 classroom observations and 63 interviews. A data analysis workshop was held to discuss preliminary findings from Nairobi and Dadaab, train the team in data analysis software, and agree on written outputs. Hassan Aden has published one article while three others have been submitted, one together with the Kenya/Somalia team for a comparative article. Hassan plans to defend late 2022. In October 2021 we have conducted a digital academic workshop with 20 participants, which led to a special issue proposal accepted by the Journal of Refugee Studies. PositiveNegatives has develop the animated stories for Kenya and Lebanon. The story on Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya was developed by British-Somali writer Hanna Ali and drawn by Kenyan artist Victor Ndula, with music by Somali musician Aar Maanta. The story focuses on the protracted nature of refugee realities, highlighting the importance of a development approach to education in emergencies. The animation was launched digitally in June 2021, accompanied by a policy brief, blog and podcast, and supported by Windle Trust and UNHCR. The story on Syrian refugees in Lebanon was launched in September 2021, and links together teachers' and students' experiences as a way to generate dialogue and create empathy among actors and tools for teachers. Our final conference presented these results and outputs during a digital part, hosted by Harvard University, and a physical part in Oslo hosted by PRIO.
REBuilD has created new insights on refugee education, relevant for both theory and for practice. Theoretically, our research suggests that for education to play a role in building durable futures for refugees requires moving beyond a set of binaries that have defined refugee policy and practice over the past many decades. Taken together, our publications identify three binaries that refugee young people experience in their education. These are binaries that provoke either/or scenarios or portrayals of reality that do not represent lived experiences or aspirations. For this reason, we call them ‘disconnects.’ They are disconnects between (1) learning and opportunities, (2) present and future, and (3) here and there. Each of these disconnects relates to dimensions of/limitations on citizenship for refugee youth, with consequences for their civic development. Empirically, our project documents ways in which refugee education does address these binaries under some conditions. One of the most striking insights of the project has what we have learned from refugee young people about the kinds of education they seek in building their futures, unknowable as these futures, and within the constraints of their socio-political environments in exile. We document both fixed and malleable elements of education that refugee students identify as acting on the connections between their current education and their futures. Refugee students experience the structures and content of schooling as both exclusionary and immutable. Yet at times, their teachers use what we call relational pedagogies of predictability, explaining, fairness, and care to support their students’ learning and navigation toward future opportunities. Refugee students identify these pedagogies as supporting them as they try to shift from futures oriented around geography to futures oriented around opportunity. A further insight was that refugees themselves contribute greatly to the education of young refugees, particularly in addressing the binaries of learning and opportunity and here and there, but this effort is often invisible in policy and research. The strongest example of this was provided in Dadaab, where refugee-led schools are accredited by the Kenyan government, educate a considerable part of the student body in the camps, and produce the best-performing students in national exams - not just in the camps but in the whole north-eastern province. We similarly found in Lebanon that students find teachers who are refugees to support the educational needs they have, including in setting up schools, reworking the curriculum to make it relevant for the students, and assisting students in the classroom to deal with the mismatch they experience between the curriculum and their everyday realities and future opportunities. Societal impact has been an integral part of the project, in how we carried out the research and had discussions with stakeholders throughout the duration of the project.
Education in situations of conflict and crisis is a crucial instrument for protecting children and youth in the near-term and fostering peaceful coexistence over the longer-term. But how can education enable individuals and communities to build durable futures when there is great uncertainty about where these futures will be? Recognizing the protracted nature of contemporary displacement, the latest UNHCR education strategy prioritizes the integration of refugees into the national education systems of host countries. While this strategy may increase refugee children and youth's access to 'inclusive and equitable quality education' (SDG4), it fails to recognize the limbo in which refugees find themselves: they are non-citizens who cannot access the durable futures that education promises them. REBuilD challenges existing paradigms of education for development, which are centered on nation-states, in three ways. First, it examines the roles of private and civil society actors as well as national governments. Second, it studies the transnational dimensions of alternative educational models, including the role of diasporas and social media. And third, it analyses the impact of models of education that focus on civic skills and identities both within and beyond the nation-state. The central research question is: how do different models of education contribute to building durable futures for individual refugees and for their local and transnational communities? This question will be answered through interviews, classroom observations, and in-depth engagement with two of the largest refugee communities at present: those who have fled Syria and Somalia. REBuilD is a collaboration between the Peace Research Institute and Harvard University. The Consortium further includes the University of Nairobi in Kenya and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. The project hosts four doctoral researchers - one of which will be based at PRIO and for which funding is sought.
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