Teaching about refugees: UNHCR issues new material for Greek teachers

With global forced displacement reaching historic levels, schools all over the world, including in Europe and in Greece, are welcoming increasing numbers of refugee children. Teachers are facing new challenges in making sense of the complexities of forced displacement  and explaining the situation of refugees and migrants to primary and secondary school children. At the same time, they may have limited access to training and guidance on how to better integrate refugee students in their classrooms. In the framework of its efforts to support teachers and schools in Europe, the Regional Bureau for Europe of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has created a new collection of teaching materials on these topics, which are available free-of-charge in the English and Greek languages.

The dedicated “Teaching About Refugees” web-page includes adaptable teaching materials for primary and secondary education about refugees, internally-displaced persons, asylum-seekers, migrants and stateless persons, with a section on guidance to teachers on including refugee children in their classes. Teachers and trainers are encouraged to combine and adapt these materials as they see fit in their lessons about the topic, taking into account the specific needs and background of their students.

The material offers a series of descriptive animation videos and corresponding discussion sheets on terms such as refugee, internally displaced and asylum; sources for facts, figures and graphs that help teachers put the displacement phenomenon into perspective and reflect with their pupils on refugee facts, as well as age-appropriate lesson plans, activity guides and video exercises.

Teaching newcomers in the class, often comes with specific learning needs relating to language acquisition and adaptation to a new culture and environment. UNHCR’s “Teaching About Refugees” material aims to help teachers understand how stress and trauma can affect refugee children and students, and also give some tips and advice on how to better include these children in the classroom. Lastly, the material provides guidance on how to optimize language learning environments for non-native speaking children.

Apart from providing free teaching materials to help teachers better inform and raise awareness about refugees and asylum-seekers in their classrooms, the UNHCR Representation in Greece runs long-standing programmes in cooperation with the school community. These include an annual National Student Contest about refugees, which will soon be launched for the 23rd year, and a joint human rights programme with the Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network, which has engaged more than 8,000 teachers and 19,000 students in workshops, train-the-trainers seminars, school festivals and community initiatives.

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