Crossing Borders: A Story of Refugee Education
In this chapter, our research opens narrative and dialogical spaces based on stories and interpretations of living, learning, and teaching in Dadaab Refugee Camp in northeastern Kenya. Two questions guide its intent: How might “refugee” be inscribed in theorizing curriculum and its emphases? What do narratives of education among displaced peoples offer a global manifesto in curriculum theory? We take up four themes that appear consistently across our data: border, temporality, loss, and choice. We argue that a contradiction exists when students don’t “see” themselves—their culture, language, and history—in the curriculum and language of the host country. The chapter comprises three parts. Initially, we introduce Dadaab Refugee Camp in the wider context of crossing borders with brief summaries of its establishment and challenges of providing education. We then turn to three narratives, drawing upon the experiences of our research team (seven of us grew up in Dadaab) related to: leaving the homeland, being a student, and later a secondary teacher in the camp. Excerpts from our dialogues during data-analysis meetings follow each story, as examples of further interpretation. We end the chapter by posing explicit questions and considerations that serve a manifesto inclusive of displaced people. Here, we discuss what is missing in emergency education: preparing students for the return home. We pose the following questions. How can a curriculum prepare refugee communities to cross physical, social, and cultural borders again, given the fact that most children and youth have not lived in their homeland? How can emergency education nurture students’ capacity to participate, integrate, and make critical choices rather than adapting to new/refugee conditions? We conclude that curriculum theorizing around emergency/refugee education be commensurate with: the exigency of time in long-term situations; the implications of crossing physical, social, and cultural borders; the losses endured by marginalized communities; and the problematics of adaptation in lieu of choice in the daily life of displaced people.
We thank the newest members on our research team, Abdihakin Muse and Mohamed Halane, who assisted in drafts of this chapter. Our research is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Grant number: 435-2013-7013.
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