Transformative Education For Refugee Children: 5 Important Takeaways

Transformative Education For Refugee Children: 5 Important Takeaways

On World Refugee Day, representatives from the Global Business Coalition for Education attended an event focused on education in emergencies titled, “SDG4 in Action: Transformative Education for Refugee Education” hosted by the UNA-SNY Young Professionals. The event featured presentations from the following speakers:

Emma Pfister

Global Cause Partnerships Manager, UNICEF USA

Dana Burde

Associate Professor and Director of International Education at New York University and Editor-in-Chief at The Journal on Education in Emergencies (JEiE)

Nada Elatar

Senior Director of Education Programs and International Social Impact, Sesame Workshop

Devon McLorg

Education Program Manager, BRAC

Dean Brooks

Director, The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

At a time when the refugee crisis is at an all time high globally– including the current crisis on the border of the United States and Mexico  – it’s important now more than ever to discuss innovative ways to use education as a transformative tool for refugee children. Below, you will find 5 important takeaways from the event on how business, governments, civil society, academia, and international actors can help bring education to the most marginalized and vulnerable communities, specifically refugees.

Here are the 5 takeaways:

Early Childhood Development is essential for refugee education

In a crisis setting, children under the age of five are the most vulnerable group; during her presentation, Nada Elattar from Sesame Workshop spoke on the effect of toxic stress on young children caught in conflict or emergencies. “Persistent stress changes the brain architecture of a child,” Nada said, emphasizing that the effect of crisis on a child is both long-lasting and damaging. Others pointed to early childhood development as essential for ensuring proper brain development, including Dana Burde from NYU. “We know what works,” Dana said. “Creative arts, play therapies, routine, and early childhood development [have been proven to help children who have experienced toxic stress]”.

“Children are just children,” Emma Pfister from UNICEF USA said. “As adults, we have a responsibility to help and education them”. The Global Business Coalition for Education believes that business has a critical role in supporting early childhood development through family-friendly programs such as maternal and paternal leave, breastfeeding centers, and investments in the community.

Research-based evidence is critical for improving education in emergencies

While the education community has a much better idea of what works for addressing education in emergencies than it did ten years ago, actors from multiple sectors are still looking to find new ways to deploy the best programs for creating beneficial and lasting impact on the ground. During the event, Dana Burde and Dean Brooks (INEE) spoke about the need for more research-driven evidence for education in emergencies policies; in fact, INEE and NYU have partnered to publish a Journal on Education in Emergencies that will help consolidate best-practices based on quantitative and qualitative research to support learning opportunities in crisis.

The Journal on Education in Emergencies is currently calling for submissions.

There is a need for innovative partnerships to tackle the most pressing problems

The power of innovative partnerships was centerstage during the event; Sesame Workshop – in conjunction with the International Rescue Committee – were awarded a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to expand its early childhood development (ECD) programs throughout conflict-affected communities. Nada Elatar from Sesame Workshop showcased the work that her organization is doing for refugees, including the creation of ECD centers and mass media projects. Sesame Workshop and IRC have also partnered with NYU’s Global TIES for Children to evaluate the success of the program, further pushing for evidence-based research.

Another partnership showcased during the event was the collaboration between Dubai Cares and INEE; in 2016, Dubai Cares announced $10 million in funding for the Evidence for Education in Emergencies (E-Cubed) program that would inform policy-makers about how to handle education in emergencies.

If you are a business looking to contribute to the cause of Education in Emergencies or refugee education, check out GBC-Education’s REACT initiative. It is an innovative digital platform that matches your potential contributions––whether it be financial, in-kind, expertise, or volunteer services––to the most urgent demands requested by Education Cannot Wait and other implementation partners on the ground that works with those affected by natural disasters and conflict.

Host communities need to be included with refugee communities when it comes to education

Devon McLorg from BRAC expressed the great need to support not only refugees, but also the host communities in which refugees live, in order to address social tensions that may arise during times of crisis. She explained that in BRAC’s home country of Bangladesh there are nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar.

BRAC finds it crucial to encourage host community members to interact with refugees in the camps in order to create an inclusive environment. This includes selecting teachers for the education centers from the host community as well as the Rohingya community, to implement important daily routines like singing the national anthem of Myanmar, exercise, language classes, stories, and other creative play based learning which promotes social and cognitive development for refugee children.

There are things you can do today to help refugees

During the question and answer session, one attendee asked how she could help refugees now. In response, Emma Pfister emphasized that if you live in the United States, you should be an active participant by contacting your Congressional representative and explain that education in emergencies is an important issue for you. Others recommended that you should advocate online, on social media, and volunteer with organizations that are supporting refugee populations.

In a world that desperately needs more hope and a lot less hate, “we have to break bread with refugee communities, our friends, our neighbors,” Emma said, to continue the important discussion on refugee education and learn from one another. In addition, diverse stakeholders need to share knowledge and work together through innovative partnerships in order to tackle the most pressing issues of our age.