How Can We Help Refugees Learn Skills and Gain Access to Quality Education?

Posted by Pat Delorean

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 82.4 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced and are now living as refugees. Millions of those refugees have had their educations and vocational training disrupted; millions more have had no opportunity to pursue a formal education at all. Only about half of all refugee children are currently enrolled in any sort of education program at all.

These vast education shortfalls often make it harder for refugees to assimilate into their new communities. Providing opportunities for refugees to receive an education or useful job training is a great way to increase the likelihood of them being able to improve their lives and economic situations and become invaluable resources to the communities in which they ultimately reside. However, there are many unique challenges when it comes to refugee education efforts. With all that in mind, here are some key ideas people should take into consideration when helping refugees gain access to quality education and learn new skills.

Make Sure Refugees Have Basic Necessities

In many cases, refugees have so many concerns about their day-to-day survival that they cannot even begin to think about their education. After all, it can be hard to think about attending vocational training if you don’t have enough food or clothes on hand to take care of yourself or your family members. If you are responsible for or supporting a refugee training and education program, you should also try to provide potential enrollees with basic necessities as well. Doing so will help give the refugees the security and peace of mind to pursue their education since they know their families are being taken care of.

Getting Back to Basics – Key Supplies for Refugee Communities

These necessities are relatively inexpensive and should include the following:

  • Food and water
  • Shelters
  • Health and first aid supplies
  • Clothes
  • Protection from the weather
  • Sanitary supplies

Overall providing a reliable supply of these basic items will provide refugees with the certainty they can survive for an extended period of time and incentivize them to pursue the educational services that are made available to them. Even if you’re not directly involved in efforts to education support displaced people, it is easy to find refugee relief companies you can donate these types of supplies to; you can also donate money instead.

Teach the Teachers

Teachers and trainers who are going to support refugee communities will need special skills in order to succeed. Unlike traditional students, even those from traditionally disadvantaged communities, refugees are going to have their own unique set of challenges that educators will need to be cognizant of. Proper training and support of educators serving refugee communities is a great way to ensure their success.

Key Training Requirements for Refugee Educators

Beyond traditional educational skills, educators serving refugee communities should be trained in the following areas:

  • Create a Safe Environment. Teacher training programs should provide skills to create safe environments, primarily by establishing clear, commonsense rules in classrooms and creating routines for students.
  • Focus on Emotional Skills. Many refugee students will have been exposed to violence and trauma throughout their lives, including in refugee camps. Teacher training programs should focus on giving teachers the ability to help students deal with and overcome the stressors of being in a classroom for several hours a day.
  • Channeling Feelings. Teachers slated to educate refugees should learn how to help their students channel feelings into positive social expression, such as through art or writing they can share with the rest of the class.
  • Addressing Harassment and Bullying. Refugee students can be exceptionally vulnerable to harassment and bullying. Teachers must develop skills to identify these behaviors and address them firmly but constructively.

Leveraging Technology for Refugee Education

Access to technology and tech tools can also be a key factor in successful refugee education programs. Recently, the UNHCR found that there are about 40% of refugee families that own at least one smartphone. This means that virtually any refugee has a decent chance of at least knowing someone who has a smartphone, even if they do not own one themselves. When a few college students found out about this a few years ago, they decided to create an app called Key Learning that supports refugee education efforts in a wide variety of different languages. The mission of this app is to provide refugees with curated videos and interactive lessons from YouTube. There are multiple training opportunities that can be covered in this platform, which is great because refugees are able to pick and choose from among different topics that interest them.

Wide Variety of Subjects

As mentioned above, there is a wide range of skills that students can learn through this app. The founders of Key Learning wanted to make sure that refugees can create lives based around skills that they are actually interested in. When a refugee becomes a student of Key Learning, they can expect to see study topics which include the following:

  • Coding
  • Jewelry making
  • Hairdressing
  • Small business and entrepreneurship

These are just a small sample of the many skills that a student can learn within this program. This variety is such a great asset to these refugees as they will be able to try out a couple of different things to really get to understand what interests them.

When a student works their way through the program, they learn some tangible skills that will lead them to provide value in the marketplace. Though Key Learning wanted to make sure that they can take matters a step further. This means that upon the completion of the program, a student has the ability to opt into a mentorship program that enables them to continue their education and even learn some of the business end of their desired skill. In some cases, Key Learning will provide students with tool kits to further develop their skills as well.

Parting Thoughts

Educating refugees can provide them the tools they need to assimilate more effectively and strengthen the communities in which they settle. Whether you are a teacher with an assignment to educate refugees or are a member of a community looking to support a refugee population, your contributions can go a very long way. So, do a little research and find the best way you can support the education and vocational training of a refugee community somewhere in the world today.