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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

When I put myself in a refugee's mindset, I don't think I would have education as my top priority.

Photo of Bryan Langman
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As I read through a few posts and as I "explored the refugee experience" on the initial page of the issue, what caught my attention the most was that refugees are devastated, frustrated, and traumatized. 

While letting the issue soak, I then thought of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Starting with their physiological, followed by their safety needs, love/belonging needs, and so on, I don't think education would be their top priority.

For example, I read they are "unable to focus on studies when they're working 2 jobs to pay for food and rent." I believe if we want to solve their education needs, we must first stabilize their physiological and safety needs - at a minimum! So my recommendation to this issue comes in another question. 

How do we provide them with a stable food and water supply, along with a safe roof over their head? Once they have all that, I believe they would be able to focus more on education.

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Photo of Veronica Herrera

Greetings Bryan,
You are right about how we need to identify real needs. One of my appreciations in reading all the posts is that we are maybe talking about different types of refugees. The range goes from refugees displaced to neighboring countries without any resources all the way to refugees in a developed country seeking a job and asylum. It would be interesting to see how the research phase informs our knowledge of the reality of refugees we are trying to serve.
Thanks for your very logical post.
Kindest regards,
Veronica Herrera

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Photo of Bryan Langman

True, different circumstances I guess? Thanks, Veronica!

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

This is a very thought provoking post Bryan! Thanks for sharing!
Veronica - Thanks for highlighting that people are posting about a wide variety of refugee experiences. I noticed this as well. Much to learn about.
Bryan - Thinking specifically about children and youth refugees I think that a school experience in some form can actually serve some basic needs. I think going to school is a ritual for children. It provides routine, structure, rules, community and these things can help them to feel secure. If a meal is provided in school that need is also at least partially satisfied. I think for kids that are uprooted and traumatized getting them into a routine can be very helpful. Maybe quieting the chaos for a few hours a day? Thoughts?

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Photo of Veronica Herrera

Bettina, you are very wise. It is the routine what makes school a motivating space for children, the atmosphere, the distinct odors, the sounds, etc. You made me think of the book "The Little Prince" by Stain-Exupéry

"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world....”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

I also see an element of change of pace that is necessary to discuss in this research stage of the process. Hitting the books requires learners "to stop being so busy" and learning a new skill is a process that requires frequency over a long period of time. How can refuges balance taking care of their the basic needs (busy earning their bread) at the same time the attend to the need they have to learn new skills and the ways of the host culture? Could we include in this design a method that takes care of both needs at the same time?

Thanks for the great conversation.
Kind regards,
Veronica Herrera

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Photo of Maurizio Bricola

Dear All great discussion here, very inspiring.
Brian great provocation, Bettina very wise thinking and Veronica very insightful analysis! Thanks. We are designing indeed for a broad range of refugees in different contexts. Focusing on urban areas might be a good bet as many refugees are moving towards the city seeking for opportunities and services.
We have children, we have adults and we have adults with children.
What if refugees are able to organise themselves and offer pop-up services or on demand services that locals might need?
Sharing skills? Offering translation services? other type of educational / cultural / culinary services? What if the structures / centres used to accommodate refugees can be used also by locals and provide elderly or nursery care for example?
Cheers

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi all. Yes, great conversation!
As I read more of the posts here and research on my own I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the scope of the problem. Please check out Venetia's posts. She is reporting from Lebanon and has posted two articles about educational programming there. In the comment to me she has attached some excellent references. Seems that there are major issues between communities, problems with discrimination etc. The numbers of refugees in Lebanon are staggering. There is a population of 4 million in the country and there are now an additional 1 million Syrian Refugees. 20 % of the population in Lebanon is now Syrian Refugees. That is unbelievable.
https://openideo.com/challenge/refugee-education/research/informal-classes-teach-refugees-academic-and-emotional-skills/comments
Mauricio I think it important to bring communities together and it would be great for the refugees to do something for their hosts but from what I have been reading the majority are barely surviving. Some of the links from Venetia discuss the issues and problems that communities are facing in areas where there are large numbers of refugees and also some programming that is addressing it. One program, a camp that brings Syrian and Lebanese youth together is really inspiring!

In this article that I just read in the Guardian it states that Syrian Refugee adults in Jordan are not permitted to work. Therefore their children must work to earn money to pay for food for families. The teens work under the radar, collecting garbage to recycle for example.
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/mar/12/young-syrian-refugees-give-up-education-jordan-work (Based on this read I am thinking that alternative educational programming is going to be extremely important. These kids need evening opportunities or open access opportunities - come when you can - maybe learning labs or something like that. Also - if adults are forbidden to work maybe this is an opportunity to further their education in some way?)

With support of an NGO perhaps refugees can organize something for the host community in a refugee center as you mention. That is something to brainstorm on. Here is an example of a Refugee Community Center in Ethiopia - supported by the Jesuit Refugee Service. Maybe this will spark some ideas.
http://jrsusa.org/news_detail.cfm?TN=NEWS-20150221025630
One way I think refugees can do something is to organize to support newcomers to the communities. They can become cultural guides. This is something I have experienced with families I have worked with in NYC - immigrants who have come and have gone on to support newcomers to their communities within the structure of existing social service organizations as volunteers- assisting in language classes for example. I also read a piece about African refugees who received an education through a program run by the Jesuit Refugee Services and now are working to organize services for newcomers into that community - to guide them as they must transition. I think this can be extremely valuable. It helps refugees and it creates goodwill with the hosts as they see this community become more self supporting. Might that open doors to further integration as well?

Thoughts?

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Photo of Maurizio Bricola

Hi Bettina, thanks for sharing those resources. You are right, refugees life is tough and indeed they are not allowed to work in most of the countries. I think challenging this status quo can be a good way to go. As well there might be spaces where the definition of work can be adjusted, what is they exchange a service for another, or get vouchers for other services, like education of their children for example?
Again I cannot agree less about the integration challenges that refugees faces because of discrimination and wrong perception or misinformation of the locals, still that makes me think that if people are able or enable to show their values misconceptions can be changed.
On children education in specific the challenges remains in term of resources: physical locations, classrooms, electricity, qualified teachers, educational material and quality of the curricula, time, access to 21st century skills development.
What are the spaces, resources available for and to refugees to organise themselves?
Cheers

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Photo of Sophie Nazerian

This is a good question - but what stops us from doing it all? There is certainly enough resources and innovative thought in the world to be able to provide for all of these needs.

Also, not all refugee camps are temporary in nature. The Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya has been there over 20 years now! To suspend education in the camp while other needs are served first would likely be devastating to the inhabitants sense of well-being and community.

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Photo of Bryan Langman

Sophie, I agree with your post. There are enough resources and innovative thought to provide all of their needs and I understand different camps may have varying lengths of stay.

I'm definitely not saying suspend education in any camp. Putting myself in their shoes, I would need to feel some form of security first. Once they have a routine set, I'm assuming they would have the time to focus on their studies.

After reading a few other posts, I do like the idea of distance learning though- via Internet/webcam?

Thanks for the response Sophie!