The Schooling Experiences of African Youth from Refugee Backgrounds in South Australia: Key Findings and Implications for Educational Practice

The Schooling Experiences of African Youth from Refugee Backgrounds in South Australia: Key Findings and Implications for Educational Practice

Svetlana M. King, Laurence Owens
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7495-0.ch006
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African students from refugee backgrounds constitute a special group in Australian schools because of their complex lives and previous schooling and life experiences that are unlike most of their non-refugee peers. This chapter draws upon findings from a collaborative, longitudinal case study that sought to understand the education and career pathways of African students from refugee backgrounds from the perspectives of African youth, educators, service providers, and South Australian African community leaders and elders. Qualitative analysis revealed six key influences that shape these pathways: previous schooling; English language skills; Australian schooling challenges and support; family support, academic achievement; and post-school preparation. This chapter presents the case study of a single student that, although unique in its circumstances, is representative of key findings from the larger study. Implications for educational practice are then described with a view to facilitating educational participation and success amongst this particular group of young people.
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Who are Refugees?

In order to qualify as a refugee, an individual must meet a set of criteria as specified in the definition developed during the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Neumann, 2004). This definition, established to assist in coping with the population of displaced persons after World War II, stipulates that a refugee is:

… any person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country (as cited in Refugee Council of Australia, 2006b).

Globally, there has been an increase in the number of individuals in need of humanitarian assistance (Khawaja, White, Schweitzer, & Greenslade, 2008). In 2011, the number totalled 42.5 million (UNHCR, 2012), an increase of 9.6 million since 2006 (UNHCR, 2007). According to Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC, 2011), protecting these individuals by offering them resettlement constitutes a major challenge facing the international community.

Australia has an extensive migration history, receiving over 700,000 individuals in need of humanitarian assistance since the Second World War (DIAC, 2011). Australia is considered to take more refugees than any other country relative to its population (Browne, 2006). Between 2003 and 2007, Australia’s Offshore Humanitarian Program predominantly provided protection to individuals from Africa (DIAC, 2011), the majority of whom were aged 24 years or younger at the time of arrival (DIAC, 2013). Consistent with these trends are data which suggest that Australian secondary schools receive approximately 3,000 new enrolments of young people from refugee backgrounds each year (West, 2004). These statistics, together with the challenges specific to African youth from refugee backgrounds, resulted in the decision to undertake research with and for this group of young people.

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