STUDENT BLOG #5 | Education and Migration Stream | June 9, 2017
By Jugo Vukojevic
MIGRATION: ‘Perspectives on Education and Migration.’
Thinking about how to write a blog post about education, migration, and development is an exciting and overwhelming prospect at the same time. The complexity with which these fields connect and affect each other, makes one consider the seemingly infinite multitude of causal relationships and perspectives such a topic can have. This reality, while daunting, is precisely why research in this area is so fascinating.
The impact of migration and education have woven their way into, and shaped my own life in a variety of significant ways. As a young refugee in Yugoslavia I learned the importance of education, and the vulnerability of society. Later, as a student, emigrating and attending school in a number of different countries, I learned about cultural differences, the significance of having one passport versus another, and the differences in educational and living opportunities of different countries.
Through my studies I have become aware: migration and education have always had a significant impact on social development. The growth of human populations over time has increased both the complexity and degree to which this is true. Early societies were formed through mass migration, technologies, from early plant domestication to the internet today, were spread through the movement of peoples, while the impact of colonialism on the spread of global trade and slavery continues to shape our world. Today the impacts of modern warfare, environmental disasters, and economic and technological changes are causing exponential growth in migrations. Modern formal education, as a widely available and accessible public good we know today, likewise continues to impact our world and is crucial to individuals and societies. Global capitalism and growing populations make educational qualifications an increasingly important commodity for individuals, while societal ideals of citizenship and patriotism continue to drive the politicization of educational provision.
This historical perspective illustrates the positive and negative impact migration and education have had on societal development. It also emphasizes that, while educational provision has expanded significantly, the growth in migration, and importance of education as a necessity for the real opportunities people have, makes continued research into these areas more important than ever.
Attempting to tackle the multitude of complex issues in the intersection of education, migration and development through my own experiences alone, however, seems hardly adequate. Instead, I realized that through my experiences with migration and education I have been fortunate enough to have met a variety of interesting and wonderful people with diverse backgrounds, and perspectives of their own. Below is a collection of some of their experiences. The variety of these perspectives, is in some ways representative of the variety of important questions that are at the heart of this intersection of development research.
- I am originally from Somalia, but prior to moving to Canada I lived in Cairo, Egypt. We moved our family because there was war and strife in my home country, and the conflict was wiping out my people, and the majority of my generation.
- Education for my children played a large part of my decision in where to find asylum, find a home. I wanted them to have a good education. We learned from abroad that Canada had a great reputation for standard of living, which included quality education.
- Education is very important for the well-being of all peoples, and for attaining a strong future; I vehemently believe it is the key to achieving advancement in many walks of life. On a more basic level, a formal education is the best tool to promote independence and personal freedom.
- I was very satisfied with how things have turned out with educating my children in Canada.
- I was a student at a bilingual school in Paris, the Ecole Jeannine Manuel, which blended French students with international students from all over the world. My high school is extremely internationally oriented and always pushed its students to look outwards and apply to universities in the US, Canada and the UK. I initially wanted to study at Tufts University near Boston, as I really liked the idea of a liberal arts education which gives students the opportunity to try out many different areas of study before specializing, but I finally came to UCL to study a European, Social and Political Studies degree which also offers me amazing flexibility, ranging from classes in Film Studies or Russian Poetry to International Security and Intrastate Conflicts.
- My high school in Paris has always pushed its students to study abroad, for one reason mainly; in the globalized world of today, it is more recognized to have a degree from a college that is known across the globe, than a college that is known solely in its own country. Also, after growing up in France as an international kid (born in USA, Russian parents), I really wanted to try something new, in terms of language, culture and way of learning. I did not see myself studying three more years in France, and the Anglo-Saxon education has always been appealing to me in the way that it forces the students to be independent and not to rely on teachers and continuous guidance.
- The most challenging part of my experience thus far would be to use the vast amounts of spare time we have and convert it to productive studying. I have only 9-12 contact hours per week, which obviously leaves a lot of ‘free time’. Though this free time is designed for students to be working independently, I have had a tough time doing so. In my first year, these many hours were often wasted because of lack of experience in self time management. This year, these hours were used more productively, be it towards sports, music or socializing, but it is still not easy to actually put yourself to work.
- The best part of my experience at UCL is the independence and maturity you gain from living alone, relying only on yourself, grounding yourself when you have work, cooking, managing money. I feel like living in a big city like London and studying at UCL has transformed me into a much more autonomous and responsible person. New social encounters, especially through being part of a sports club at UCL (basketball) has allowed me to meet people with eclectic academic, social and geographical backgrounds. Basketball for me has definitely been a memorable experience at UCL.
- Education is what turns potential into success. I believe everyone has a potential, a base on which one can build on to become an individual equipped to make changes or have success in their field. Without education, which teaches you not only knowledge, but also work ethic, time management, and more, we would never be able to achieve heights we are capable of achieving. For me personally, education allows me to be more aware of the world I live in, and guides me slowly but surely to a field that I would be passionate about and would be excited to make a living on.
1. I delivered catch-up lessons and lessons of Greek language to unaccompanied refugees in Athens, aged from 10-15 years old with origins from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria. The boys were under the protection of the NGO I was working with and they attended an international public Greek school.
2. When I first started working with them, they have been in Greece for a few months, so language was the most difficult barrier but when you must have seen their faces and mine when we achieved to overcome this barrier. Also, we have to take into consideration that working with teenagers is not easy, especially when they come for a completely different cultural background.
- The best part of my job is when their dedication and effort, combined with my facilitation, bring them a step closer to feel as normal children; being integrated into the school community, communicating easily with their peers, having new friends, making progress at school, having good grades, being positive about their future, dreaming freely.
- These children survived from all these hazards, risked their lives to come to Europe and despite that most of them had never been to school, or have been for a few years, and despite all that, they found the courage to attend a new school in a new country with a new language (objectively a difficult one). It’s even more positive that the majority of them have high aspirations for the future. So, it is our responsibility to give them the advocacy to thrive and there is no other way to do it, than through education.
- Talking about Greece (because right now everything is in an early stage), we must design an educational plan for integration, for language acquisition, for trauma healing, for giving them back not only a sense of normality, but also their childhood and stop depending on the good willingness of individuals.
- We believe education is the most important thing for a child. In China, a good education can change somebody’s life.
- We want him to learn English because it is a skill for everyone. It is the most popular language in the world, and therefore relates to his job in the future and may allow for more mobility.
- Things that concern us about his education in the future are money, Chinese education policy, teachers, and the environment of education.
- We just hope that he can be healthy and happy every day.
Ozair (student, refugee – Afghanistan)
- I think that education is important, because education changes everything for me. When my brother finished his education and found a job, that was a life changing moment for my family. I was born as an Afghan refugee in Iran, and I have never dreamed that we could live like a normal people until my brother started to earn money. It is also important because it changes the way people look at you regardless of your age and origin. Also, learning English enabled me to communicate with people in different places through my journey.
- I came from Afghanistan, and I am not sure where I want to go now. I would like to go anywhere I could go to University. If I can study here, in Serbia, I will stay here. But, maybe I would like to go to Switzerland, because in that country, the population speaks different languages, so I could learn them.
- I didn‘t go to school since I left Afghanistan. This is the first school I am in, after education that I got in my country. And, this is also the first time I‘ve decided for myself, without my family.
- I don‘t like when somebody gives me orders, so I would like to become my own boss, to have my own firm and to be in IT industry.
1. My job involves various activities relating to work with students who come from underprivileged backgrounds. My school includes students from poor families, most of whom are Roma, whose parents are largely uneducated, having never completed primary school. In addition, this year Serbia has had a lot of incoming refugees from Afghanistan and Syria, many of whom are temporarily stuck here while they await opportunities to move to other countries in Western Europe. Our school has tried to accommodate for some of these children who have volunteered to enrol and attend temporary classes while they are here. As they attend a number of select classes, such as Serbian and English, my job involves ensuring their stay at the school is smooth and as useful as possible, and that they are able to achieve some educational goals set by the ministry of education.
2. The most difficult part of my job is work with families whose children have left school. Trying to convince them that their education is important, and to motivate them to complete primary school. Many of them, frequently migrate to Western European countries for a period of 1 to 2 years during which time they often do not attend school, or attend infrequently, before, usually, returning to Serbia where the rest of their family and community are. Because of these frequent migrations, the education our students receive is frequently hampered as it is interrupted.
3. The best part of my work is the feeling I get from helping someone. Among other things, it often happens that many of my students simply need someone to talk to and hear encouragement from, as their parents can be busy with work and trying to survive in dire circumstances.
4. The main goal, and biggest thing that can impact their lives is completion of, at least, primary school. Unfortunately, in Serbia, many of these students have very poor employment prospects, even with primary school completion. Without it, many will spend their lives barely scraping by, perpetuating the cycle of poverty, and living in poor conditions as their parents had done. Education is the only option they have for escaping poverty.
5. Finishing school can give them a job, and jobs can give their lives some stability and security. Security is what they are lacking most in life, which makes planning for the future and setting long term goals nearly impossible.