International Children’s Day marks conclusion of refugee awareness school programme “Away from home and fear”
The programme aimed at raising awareness about refugee issues, promoting acceptance and tolerance, and fostering the inclusion of refugee and migrant children in the their new school communities.
Launched at the beginning of the 2017/2018 school year and concluded today, the programme “Away from Home and Fear” aimed at raising awareness about refugee issues, promoting acceptance and tolerance, and fostering the inclusion of refugee and migrant children in the their new school communities.
“International Children’s Day today, 1 June, reminds us all of our obligations towards children to provide them with those tools and conditions that will enable them to thrive,” said a joint statement issued by the actors involved in the implementation of the programme on the occasion of its completion, which coincides with the International Children’s Day. The programme that ran through the school year 2017-2018 was implemented by the Child Commissioner, the Pedagogical Institute and the Secondary Education Director of the Ministry of Education and Culture and the UNHCR in Cyprus.
For UNHCR, such initiatives that aim at the smooth integration of refugee children in their school environment are of utmost importance. “It is a fact that schools all over the world, including Cyprus, are welcoming into their classrooms an increasing number of refugee children. The schools are facing the challenging task of ensuring a meaningful education for refugee children and of giving them the opportunity to thrive together with their local classmates,” said Mr. Damtew Dessalegne, UNHCR Representative in Cyprus at the launching of the programme in October 2017.
The innovation of this programme lies in the fact that the children themselves took ownership of their own issues that affect them, and developed a plan of action on how to best address their challenges. During the 2017/2018 school year, some ten schools participated in this project and each forged a team of ten persons, consisting of students, teachers and parents.
A team called “I Care and I Take Action” forged a plan with specific activities aiming at the inclusion of refugee and migrant children in their school communities, on the basis of the needs identified within their respective schools. The activities that were implemented by the school teams included:
- the creation of a buddy system, by which a mentor child was responsible for the orientation and the smooth transition of the newcomer refugee or migrant student;
- meetings with parents;
- translation of school documents in the languages understood by the parents or guardians of the refugee and migrant students;
- organising visits at museums and other places of interest in Cyprus in order to introduce Cyprus, its history and culture to their new peers;
- organising cross-cultural events within and outside the schools for the diverse communities to get to know each other;
- organising experiential awareness workshops for students and teachers.
The activities implemented at the participant schools are available online on the Child Commissioner’s website.
Financial support for certain activities at the participating schools was provided by the Foundation for the Management of European Lifelong Learning Programmes.