by UNIMED, UNESCO Chair in Cultural Diplomacy, Governance and Education &UNESCO Chair on Education for Sustainable Peace
Since 2011 the MENA region has suffered one of the most important forced movement of population recorded since the end of the Second World War. This deepening refugee crisis puts a lot of pressure on the education systems of hosting countries. Quite a number of international initiatives and projects have been put in place to tackle the crisis of hosting countries' education systems. These projects cover topics such as enabling refugees to access formal and non-formal education by identifying their education level and supporting their adaptation to schools by providing them with language training or cultural orientation. Yet, the crisis is escalating, with an increasing burden on hosting countries infrastructure and growing strain on intercommunity relations.
In this context, IAU UNESCO Chair in Cultural Diplomacy, Education and Governance, UNESCO Chair on Education for Sustainable Peace and UNIMED - Mediterranean Universities Union organized a Roundtable Meeting on "Refugee Education: Sharing Experiences", on the 31th of October 2017, in Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, to discuss the challenges in developing and implementing education and skills development programs and projects for refugees in cross-cultural context, share good practices and lessons learned and formulate recommendations for policy and practice.
The Roundtable was co-moderated by Dr. Marco Di Donato, Project Manager at UNIMED and Dr. Celal Nazim İrem, Chairholder of UNESCO Chair in Cultural Diplomacy, Governance and Education. Stefanie Kottowski, Senior Project Manager at German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Louise Watts, Head of European Projects at Campus France, Henriette Stoeber, Policy & Project Office at European University Association (EUA) and Dr. Özüm Sezin Uzun, Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair on Education for Sustainable Peace made presentations to discuss the following:
-State of the art and best practices related with Refugees crisis;
-lack of a coordination among ongoing initiatives: how to enhance the impact;
-scholarships opportunities and criteria: how to improve access and related criticalities;
-interaction with hosting communities: how to face tensions and solve it;
-what's next: possible new actions for Refugees in both Europe and MENA region.
Following issues were raised as particularly relevant and challenging while dealing with refugee crisis:
-Solutions to the refugee crises could be developed by sharing the best practices that would inspire developing new projectes in widely participated platforms, such as Refugees Welcome Map of EUA.
-It is the utmost priority to protect and allow well-educated Syrians to continue their education, while they are away from their home countries, so that they will be able to contribute to the reconstruction of their countries in the aftermath of the crisis.
-All the initiatives, projects and programs aiming to improve the conditions of refugees must also consider the potential effects in terms of social cohesion. Refugees do not exist isolated from the hosting community in most of the countries in the region. One should take into consideration the perception of those projects and programs by hosting communities who might also be or feel themselves in vulnerable positions.
-Supporting the refugees should not be considered as distinct from supporting the hosting countries and communities, if we sincerely want to improve refugees' living conditions.
-Cooperation with national stakeholders and authorities is crucial for successfully developing and implementing international education projects for refugees.
-Scholarship critieria should be redefined considering education as human right and not only according to excellence criteria. More and more syrian refugees (students and scholars) should be involved in the designing process according to their real needs.
-Joint research with MENA Higher Education Institutions should be promoted in order to have more reliable data and statistics about refugees in the region having access to local sources.
Presentations done by speakers: