UNHCR launches educational kit for EU students
GENEVA, Jan 23 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency this week started distributing an educational kit to inform teenagers in Europe on the plight of refugee youth in Africa.
The kit, "Young African Refugees: Building the Future", was presented in Brussels on Youth Solidarity Day Tuesday. Addressing some 600 students gathered at the event from across the European Union, High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said, "There is a strong need for solidarity, in order to help find a new life for young refugees. But the reality is that solidarity is not there."
Filippo Grandi, UNHCR's representative in Afghanistan, added, "Behind every refugee there is a terrible story on why it was necessary to flee. That's a very different story than the one told by some politicians, who say that these people are out to steal our jobs."
The UNHCR education kit seeks to tell the real story behind these negative stereotypes. Funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), it aims to increase European teenagers' awareness of the plight of refugee youth in Africa and elsewhere.
The kit consists of a teacher's guide and video, with seven personal stories focusing on some of the key problems faced by refugee youth - separation from family, exploitation, abuse and violence, exposure to HIV/AIDS, military recruitment and lack of access to education.
One of the refugees profiled is Tamba, a former child solider from Liberia. At 15 years of age, Tamba has seen and been forced to commit unimaginable atrocities during his days of forced recruitment. UNHCR found him in Sierra Leone's Mapeh internment camp for ex-combatants and transferred him to Jimmy Bagbo refugee camp, where he is now attending school and getting health care and psychological counselling to help him deal with his pains and nightmares.
Although saddened by the news that his father was killed in Liberia, Tamba is determined to go back to Liberia one day to find the rest of his family.
In another part of Africa, Ngobola, 16, is barely out of childhood but is already a mother. The Congolese girl was separated from her family when soldiers attacked her village. Beaten and raped, she managed to escape but found herself pregnant. Today, she lives in Zambia's Kala camp and takes care of her baby with help from her foster mother. UNHCR and social workers visit regularly to make sure that separated children like Ngobola get the care they need.
These are just two of the moving stories featured in UNHCR's educational package, which has been endorsed by the Ministry of Education in France and education administrators in Germany. Kits have been sent to more than 10,000 schools in both countries, and the authorities have sent a letter of instruction to schools encouraging them to use the materials.
Initially launched in France and Germany, UNHCR hopes that with further funding from ECHO and other sponsors, the educational kit can soon be adapted and distributed to schools in other EU countries.