A leading expert shows how, by learning from refugee teachers and students, we can create for displaced children—and indeed all children—better schooling and brighter futures.
Half of the world’s 26 million refugees are children. Their formal education is disrupted, and their lives are too often dominated by exclusion and uncertainty about what the future holds. Even kids who have the opportunity to attend school face enormous challenges, as they struggle to integrate into unfamiliar societies and educational environments.
In Right Where We Belong, Sarah Dryden-Peterson discovers that, where governments and international agencies have been stymied, refugee teachers and students themselves are leading. From open-air classrooms in Uganda to the hallways of high schools in Maine, new visions for refugee education are emerging. Dryden-Peterson introduces us to people like Jacques—a teacher who created a school for his fellow Congolese refugees in defiance of local laws—and Hassan, a Somali refugee navigating the social world of the American teenager. Drawing on more than 600 interviews in twenty-three countries, Dryden-Peterson shows how teachers and students are experimenting with flexible forms of learning. Rather than adopt the unrealistic notion that all will soon return to “normal,” these schools embrace unfamiliarity, develop students’ adaptiveness, and demonstrate how children, teachers, and community members can build supportive relationships across lines of difference.
It turns out that policymakers, activists, and educators have a lot to learn from displaced children and teachers. Their stories point the way to better futures for refugee students and inspire us to reimagine education broadly, so that children everywhere are better prepared to thrive in a diverse and unpredictable world.