Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

Somali Refugee Students in Canadian Schools: Premigration Experiences and Challenges in Refugee Camps/Les éLèves Réfugiés Somaliens Dans Les éColes Canadiennes : Les Expériences De Prémigration et Les Défis Dans Les Camps De Réfugiés

Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

Somali Refugee Students in Canadian Schools: Premigration Experiences and Challenges in Refugee Camps/Les éLèves Réfugiés Somaliens Dans Les éColes Canadiennes : Les Expériences De Prémigration et Les Défis Dans Les Camps De Réfugiés

Article excerpt

Introduction

Thousands of people worldwide are forced to flee their homes every year to save their lives and search for safety and protection. More than 43 million people worldwide are currently displaced as a result of armed conflicts or natural disasters (United Nations [UN], 2015). In recent years, the devastating and destructive war in Syria that started in 2011 has forced thousands of Syrians to flee their country and seek refuge in safer locations. The responsibilities among the developed countries to settle Syrian refugees became a significant political issue last year, and soon enough, the education of the refugee children will emerge as one of the key concerns of those countries that have accepted the refugees.

Every year, Canada sponsors thousands of world refugees to resettle in the country to provide them with a safe haven. According to the Government of Canada (2016), "Refugees are people who have fled their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution, and who are therefore unable to return home" (The refugee system in Canada section). By sponsoring and protecting thousands of refugees every year, Canada maintains its well-respected humanitarian tradition on the international stage. In the last decade, Canada has welcomed thousands of refugee families from countries affected by war or natural disasters, including Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and most recently Syria (Government of Canada, 2015).

After resettlement in Canada, refugee students are likely to experience higher risk of academic underachievement than immigrant students in part due to untreated psychological trauma and educators' lack of understanding of refugee children's premigration experiences and current needs. Teachers and social workers have been documenting the needs of refugee children to improve resettlement services, yet not enough is known about how refugee children are adapting to Canadian school system in order to inform pedagogical approaches and school measures for the benefits of these children. Research on the needs of refugee children in school is lacking documentation on the children's direct experiences (Guerrero & Tinkler, 2010). As a result, their special needs are not well understood by educators and the school community in their host country. This study begins to fill this gap by asking six children between ages 12 to 14 from one of the largest refugee groups (Somali) settling in Canada about their premigration and postmigration challenges and experiences as they adapt to a new culture and school system in a southwestern city in Ontario.

Background Information

Somalia is located in the northeast region of the African continent with its population estimated at 10.8 million in 2014 (World Population Review, 2015). Most people in Somalia are Muslim (Middle East Policy Council, 2005), and the country's two official languages are Somali and Arabic. As a result of a long and ongoing civil war that started in Somalia in 1991, and major droughts that hit the country in recent years, thousands of Somalis are displaced and forced to flee their country. According to Nilsson, Barazanji, Heintzelman, Siddiqi, and Shilla (2012), "citizens originating from Somalia compose the third largest group of refugees under the United Nations' responsibility" (p. 240).

Canada has sponsored thousands of Somali refugee families to resettle on Canadian land. Although Somali-Canadian communities have been established in major Canadian provinces and cities such as Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, the majority of those families have resettled in the province of Ontario. According to Canadian Friends of Somalia [CFS] (2016), "it is estimated that there are around 140,000 Somalis living in Toronto, and followed by Ottawa (20,000)" (Somali Canadian Facts section). Somali-Canadian communities have also been established in other major cities in Ontario including the one in the southwest region of the province where this study took place. …

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