The Open Classroom: Distance Learning in and out of Schools

By Jo Bradley | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Open learning and distance education for displaced populations

Michael Brophy

Over the past 20 years we have all grown familiar with television images of refugees: families bundled with their bags onto tractors, gaunt African children with staring eyes walking across barren landscapes. We have seen aircraft parachuting in tents and sacks of food and trucks delivering blankets and medical supplies. But we rarely if ever see or even hear about what happens next. In 1999 there were an estimated 15 million refugees in the world, people who had fled their homes in fear of persecution and crossed into another country for safety. In addition there were between 20 and 50 million internally displaced people (IDPs) who had fled fighting or persecution in their home areas and moved to safer parts of their own country, sometimes trekking on foot for a thousand miles or more (Crisp, Talbot and Cipollone, 2002). No one knows for sure how many refugees and IDPs there are today-50, 60 or 70 million. But one thing that is certain, a large proportion of those refugees and IDPs are children, probably between 15 and 20 million.

After the planes have dropped the emergency food and water into the camps and the tents and water supplies have been established, there is still the problem of what to do for the children. Should they simply be left to sit with their families, day after day in a tent? Should they be allowed to wander, scavenging for food in the bush or for work in local villages? Or should they be encouraged to settle into

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