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Unit plan for ages 9-11 in Civic Education: Refugee Children

Teaching Tools, 10 October 2006

© UNHCR/A.Hollman
The fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina caused families to flee their homes in search for safety and shelter. Many people, like this boy, made their way to collective centres.



  • To understand the abnormal and trying conditions in which refugee children live and endure
  • To introduce the idea that people's basic needs are considered rights


  • To practise extracting factual information from written material
  • To apply imaginative thinking to the situations of refugee children
  • To develop discrimination and discernment
  • To develop skills in negotiation and teamwork


© Evans Brothers Limited, London
Cover of the "One Day We Had to Run!: Refugee Children tell Their Stories in Words and Paintings" (Evans Brothers Limited, London).
  • To encourage empathy by having the students imagine themselves in Jacob's situation and how they would cope with the difficulties which refugee children must face
  • To encourage in the students respect for others through exposure to a lifestyle very different from their own
  • To develop in the students a desire to seek solutions to problems, which do not violate the rights of others
  • To help students differentiate between things that they want, and things that they need

LESSON 1: Jacob's story


Case history of Jacob

Jacob is a Sudanese refugee child who fled Sudan without his family. After joining up with other Sudanese boys who were also without parents, he walked from southern Sudan, across thousands of miles of barren land, to the safety of a refugee camp in north-west Kenya.


Questions designed to stir the children's imagination and to sensitise them to Jacob's situation.

Suggested "set the scene" questions can be found in the accompanying lesson plan.


The teacher reads aloud Jacob's story. (If possible, the photo of the Sudanese boys trekking their way to safety should be downloaded from this website, and be on display).

Students answer the comprehension questions on the accompanying Activity Sheet: Jacob's Story.

© UNHCR/W.Stone
Thousands of boys roamed between Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya after fleeing from the fighting in southern Sudan. Gradually they met up and formed into large groups. Some stayed on the road for years crossing thousands of miles of barren land.

"Jacob's Story" from Refugee Children (Geneva, UNHCR, 1993), pp. 14-16.

Activity Sheet: Jacob's Story

Suggested reading for teachers

Christiane Berthiaume, "Alone in the world" (Refugees no. 95, 1994).

Sybella Wilkes, "One day we had to run!" (London, Evans Brothers, 1994), p. 12-19

UNHCR, The State of the World's Refugees 1995: In Search of Solutions [PDF, 42pp., 1.0Mb] (Oxford, OUP, 1995), p. 28

© UNHCR/P.Moumtzis
Starting a new life: Elijah Jok surfing the internet with his American teacher (from Refugees no. 122, 2001, p. 23).

The 'Lost Boys of Sudan' are now adults. They spent much of their childhood and teenage years in refugee camps in northern Kenya. Many have been resettled in various countries. Articles on the 'Lost Boys' include Judith Kumin,

"The Long March [PDF, 2pp., 107Kb]" (Refugees no. 122, 2001, pp. 12-13), Panos Moumtzis, "Murder, flight...and pizza [PDF, 3pp., 185Kb]" (Refugees no. 122, 2001, pp. 22-24)

There were also the 'Lost Girls of Sudan' who were 'invisible' to humanitarian and media attention for a long time. Refer to Emmanuel Nyabera "Man-eating lions, crocodiles, famine..." (Refugees no. 126, 2002, pp. 8-10), and to the lesson plan for 15-18 year olds in Civic Education on Refugee Women.

LESSONS 2 and 3: Childrens' Rights


The wants, the needs and the rights of a child

Link to previous lesson

Quick recall questions: Where did Jacob come from? Where is he living now? How did he get there? Why did Jacob flee his country?


Activity students first work in pairs and then as a class to determine what are wants and what are needs, and finally what are the basic human rights of children.

© UNHCR/J.Björgvinsson
Newly arrived refugees from Togo at the transit centre set up in a church yard near Hilakondji border town.

Activity developed from an analogous lesson by Susan Fountain, Education for Development (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1995), p. 162-165. [PDF, 17.52Mb]

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Plain language version (external link, new window)




Amin's Escape. From 'Refugee Children: Escape from Persecution and War', pp. 8-13

An illustrated story about a ten-year old refugee boy from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Som'an Escape. From 'Refugee Teenagers: Escape and Protection from Persecution and War', pp. 4-7

An illustrated story about a refugee teenager from Cambodia (from Refugee Teenagers: Escape and Protection From Persecution and War, pp. 4-7).

Refugee Children: Escape from Persecution and War

This brochure is designed for young readers.


UNHCR's simulation game, designed to create a better understanding of the problems of refugees, can be used as an educational tool.