17 November 2003
Education of refugees and internally displaced persons
Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Rapporteur: Mr Rafael Huseynov, Azerbaijan, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
Education is essential to prepare refugees and internally displaced persons for life, for employment and for democratic citizenship. Their situation is abnormal and temporary and must be resolved either by return, integration in the host country or resettlement in a third country. A decision on which course to take should be a matter of priority. Pending that decision, educational provision must be made for each eventuality and at all appropriate levels.
Member states are asked to give priority to the planning of adequate measures to ensure that access to education is available for refugees and internally displaced persons. The Council of Europe should itself enter into partnership agreements with the European Union, UNHCR, Unicef and WHO to tackle the problems of refugees and internally displaced persons in specific areas of Europe on the educational, political, social and health levels.
I. Draft recommendation
1. The situation of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) is an abnormal and temporary state that must be resolved either by return, integration in the host country or resettlement in a third country. A decision on which course to take should be a matter of priority. Pending such decision, educational provision must be made for each eventuality.
2. For refugees and IDPs education is a basic essential, as also, depending on age, are further education and vocational training. What is at stake is the preparation of such persons for life, for employment and for democratic citizenship. This is relevant for all persons in that position. It is made more difficult and onerous by delay in the decision on whether to return or stay.
3. Education can also be a tool for protection and for introducing tolerance, peace and conflict resolution between opposing communities, for developing notions of intercultural understanding and dialogue, for active peace-keeping operations and for combating the use of refugees as political hostages.
4. Refugees and IDPs require, in addition to the normal education, specific psychological care, cultural orientation and language training. This needs specially trained teachers and material.
5. Co-ordination is necessary between the host government (and local community), governmental organisations (such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Unicef) and non-governmental organisations working with refugees and IDPs.
6. Considerable resources and sustained commitment by governments and donors are necessary for the education of refugees and IDPs. Such soft sector needs are too often ignored. More effective intervention at an early stage can reduce the long-term costs.
7. The Parliamentary Assembly has considered the situation of refugees and IDPs on several occasions. The present recommendation aims to reinforce attention on the problems and the priority of education.
8. Careful attention should, however, be paid to the very differing conditions of refugees and IDPs in different European countries. Their concentration is highest in the South Caucasus and the Balkans. Education under post-conflict conditions in such areas should be pragmatic and is very different from that in safe and prosperous societies.
9. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers invite member states to:
i. give priority to the planning of adequate measures to ensure that access to education is available for refugees and IDPs pending the possibility of a durable solution of either voluntary repatriation or local integration;
ii. respect existing obligations for the provision of education for refugees and IDPs within the human rights framework and as indicated in the most recent UNHCR Guidelines;
iii. change practices that dodge such international obligations, for example by defining what “authorised to stay” entails in terms of assessing educational assistance;
iv. make efforts to facilitate the integration of refugee and IDP children into the school system of the host country;
v. facilitate the provision of further education and vocational training for refugees and IDPs so as to reduce their dependence and to enable them to have a normal life;
vi. take account of education already acquired by refugees and IDPs;
vii. meet the supplementary costs involved in the education and language training of refugees and IDPs so as to give them both a chance to return to a viable life in their own country or remain in the host country;
viii. train teachers for the specific education of refugees and IDPs.
10. The Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to:
i. examine models for teaching refugees and IDPs in key fields such as history, culture, civic education, religion and language;
ii. integrate the education and training of refugees and IDPs in a new interdisciplinary project;
iii. enter into partnership agreements with the European Union, UNHCR, Unicef and the World Health Organisation to tackle the problems of refugees and IDPs in specific areas of Europe on the educational, political, social and health levels (respectively).
II. Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Rafael Huseynov
On 26 September 2001, 22 Assembly members tabled a motion for a recommendation on “Rights to education of refugees and displaced people in Azerbaijan in the context of future development in the field of education in Europe” (Doc. 9237).
In November 2001, the Assembly Bureau referred this motion to the Committee on Culture, Science and Education.
In January 2002, the Committee discussed the motion and felt that the report’s scope should be widened to include countries other than Azerbaijan. It decided to appoint Mr Mehmet Saglam Rapporteur on the right to education for refugees and displaced persons, subject to the Bureau’s authorisation to extend the report’s scope. Authorisation was given in March.
Subsequent to parliamentary elections in Turkey Mr Saglam left the Assembly and the Committee appointed Mr Rafael Huseynov Rapporteur on 3 March 2003.
Professor Michael Daxner, member of the Steering Committee on Higher Education and Research of the Council of Europe and former Co-Head (United Nations Mission In Kosovo - UNMIK) of the Department of Education and Science in Kosovo, was asked to prepare a memorandum on education for refugees and displaced persons (see Appendix 1).
On 10 September 2003, the Committee held a Hearing on Education of refugees and displaced persons in Europe with the participation of Prof. Daxner, a group of young refugees, representatives of UNHCR, the Hungarian Government and NGOs active in the field. The Rapporteur had the opportunity of expressing his views on the subject at that meeting. (see Appendix 2).
On 17 October 2003, the Committee on Culture, Science and Education approved the report and agreed that the explanatory memorandum would be the two aforementioned appendices plus the present introductory note.
EDUCATION OF REFUGEES AND INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS
with special reference to the Caucasus and Balkan regions
Memorandum prepared by Prof. Michael Daxner, consultant expert
1. Executive Summary
2. The General Framework
3. Educational Principles and Basics
4. Regional Specifications
The Caucasus Region
5. The Soft Sector Approach
6. Dealing with the Past
7. Dealing with the Present
8. Dealing with the Future
10. Recommendations and specific key words
This paper was commissioned to the author in June 2003, and completed with the assistance of Dr. Jochen Fried, Vienna.
Refugees and internally displaced persons (hereafter IDPs) are generic terms for all persons living under the circumstances of forced dislocation. Being aware of the legal discussion as presented by UNHCR and others, the author wants to make clear that a definitive terminology is not intended.
For key words see 10.2.
1. Executive Summary
Refugees and internally displaced persons have a right to education, but not all education offered is right for them. This justifies a thematic focus on these groups of deprived persons. The numbers of refugees and IDPs are increasing dramatically. The boundaries between different groups of dislocated persons are more unclear than ever: refugees under international law, displaced persons, migrants under hardship, asylum seekers, etc. The main aspect should always be in the focus: the humanitarian mission to act as fast and as effectively as possible in order to alleviate the fate of people who have lost their homes, their homeland, and most often much more than that.
The Council of Europe is one among the intergovernmental organisations which enjoy the highest esteem in moral and humanitarian terms. Consequently, the issue of refugees and IDPs has been on its agenda and will remain there. Within the mandate of the Council, two regions have been suffering from immense population moves, ethnic purging, violent dislocation of individuals and particular groups: the Balkans (the author deliberately uses this term for a specific part of South East Europe, which does not contain any colloquial pejorative), and the Caucasus Region. While special attention is given to these regions in this report, the general aspect of the problem remains universal and is thus treated as a core element in a concept of the building of civil societies and democracies.
Education is among the few fundamental elements which an emerging civil society needs, together with the rule of law, social protection, basic shelter and nutrition, and a minimum of security and safety. Education always implies processes and cannot be delivered as any commodity. This makes it difficult to provide a sound planning and provision of education to those who are affected by violent environments and traumatic individual and collective situations, such as refugees and IDPs. This report tries to cope with some of the major problems in the broader context.
The main approach focuses on the fact that no education policy can be developed by itself. Education is always embedded in a tight network of social, political and cultural structures, which are – under the circumstances of emergency – very hard to streamline and organize. Instead of pushing education backstage, where ‘it can wait’, it should always be included in the main actions of the vanguard, i.e. when the exploration of a strategy for refugees and IDPs is being conducted.
The report presents the elements of such a strategy with much emphasis on its systemic qualities and sufficient care of the particularities which make it impossible to draw simply a ‘master plan’. The report also recognizes the admirable work done in the past and heavily relies on both the experience of many organisations and agencies in the field as well as theoretical considerations. However, this is not an analytical paper to be added to the ‘literature’ on refugees and IDPs. It is more directed to political decision makers and educational strategists in order to provide a few ‘European’ specifications to a universal concern. This has some very concrete dimensions: will the countries in South East Europe, which are likely to be associated with the EU or even become members rather sooner than later, cope differently with the problems of refugees and IDPs than the Caucasian region, which is far from integration into the EU? Will the considerations on our topic enable the Council of Europe to improve its stand against competing or concurring organisations, which are active on the same turf, such as OSCE, and thus create better coordination and division of labour? Will the programs be attractive to additional contributions from the member states, when it comes to the implementation of specific projects by the Council?
The approach starts with educational basics and a clear focus on those (“Soft”) sectors which form the environment for a sound educational strategy. Specific regional differences are added as far as necessary. The core of the pedagogical program is located in the differentiated approach towards past, present and future. From there, civic education and vocational perspectives are developed. The report finally presents a few recommendations which should serve as a complement to the foundations and elaborations made by the Council on behalf of refugees and IDPs in the past.
2. The General Framework
a. Refugees and IDPs are a common problem in all zones of conflict worldwide. They do not represent a homogenous social group, but are divided into quite a few specific regional differences, closely related to their social, cultural, political and geographical environment. Asylum seekers, including those from European countries, temporarily and permanently dislocated persons and the multi-dimensional tasks of relocation create a complex situation, in which education plays an eminent role.
b. External actors (such as international agencies, intergovernmental and governmental organisations, NGOs etc.) must also reflect their own role in all activities. The way external actors are perceived by the target groups gains increasingly in importance. The conduct of the external players is as decisive on the inclination of the refugees and IDPs orientation as the policies of their own peers and the attractors or repellents from their home country.
c. There are many organisations and agencies, such as UNHCR, which are focused on dealing with refugees and IDPs in a quite professional and expert manner; in many cases GOs and NGOs act on site in local or regional contexts. Not all experience and expertise can be transferred from one focus of action to another.
d. Among the various fields of refugee and IDP work, there are some rough criteria for systematising the area of action:
- The political environment (such as post-war situations, imminent belligerent circumstances)
- The causes and perspectives of the circumstances which produced refugees and IDPs (wars, famine, dictatorship, ethnic and religious conflicts)
- The economic environment
- The material environment (famine, housing, natural hardship)
- The cultural and social environments
e. Education is one of the areas where all context-related circumstances merge and concentrate. Following the theory on Soft Sector development (Chapter 5), education, science and social protection are the main elements in a comprehensive Soft Sector approach.
f. In order to give sound and feasible recommendations it is necessary to include all age groups and social ‘definitions’ of refugees and IDPs into an educational review and assessment; i.e. it does not suffice to concentrate on primary school education under the aspect of the most visible and representative group of affected children. Pre-school education can play an eminent role in stabilising a defined group as can the stratum of elderly and retired persons within the spectrum.
g. Education is not just one element among civic institutions. It is assumed that a functional education system is a key to implementing civil administration within a specially needy group of persons.
h. Some political aspects of each environment for action should be clarified in advance:
- Which group among the affected people enjoys a certain recognition under the Conventions for Refugees and other rules of international laws, and where should additional frameworks be created in order to offer similar standards (with many IDPs, this is a certain problem, because the delineation between them and recognised refugees is often blurred)?
- Who is in charge?
These two questions are very important when it comes to the decision on whether refugees and IDPs shall receive an education under the rules of the receiving country or an international community, or under the rules of their home community, however distant it may be. The problem may be lesser for majority groups, but minority refugees and IDPs need much better attention in this respect.
- Do plans for problem-solving exist, or are they being developed by ‘doing’?
- What side-actions are needed (e.g., fundraising)?
- Are there physical time-pressures, such as the arrival of winter? etc.
It is necessary to have a good overview over the environment of the refugee and IDP situation before going into education and other Soft Sectors (anamnestic and diagnostic approaches).
3. Educational principles and basics
a. The right to education must not be denied to anyone. Thus, refugees and IDPs are only ‘special cases’ within an overall concept.
Two basic facts compete with regard to this special sector of education:
- The pressure of time and the singular circumstances, under which education for refugees and IDPs must be organized versus
- A prepared scheme and strategy for this sector, within a wider framework of education under the responsibility of those, who are also in charge for refugees and IDPs.
For all educational policies it is decisive to know whether an approach to integrate refugees and IDPs into a target society shall be given priority over any kind of returns. This strategic decision is certainly not only a result of deliberations among the refugees and IDPs, but also among the leaders of the receiving countries or those politically responsible for this group and the constellation of political forces in the target territory. And here the voices of the refugees and IDPs should be better listened to than in the past. Refugees and IDPs are never ‘invited’ and not often ‘welcome’. The mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motives to receive and accept them must be carefully studied within the ‘anamnestic approach’, as to avoid a policy based on wrong assumptions and expectations.
It would be better for many refugees and IDPs if their receiving host-country acts out of mere compliance with international conventions and self-evident morals of human rights and humanity than out of friend-enemy-scheme of welcome and rejected subjects.
b. Both the Baltic and Caucasus regions suffer from and enjoy the results of disintegration of a socialist power. However, there are significant differences: While the Caucasus region has created a number of political entities with different inclinations towards the old system and modern Russia, this is not the case in former Yugoslavia. The new states and territories after the FRY disintegration are in a certain way mirrors of the same conflict between an ethnic and a societal identity (i.e. between a Yugoslav and a Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, etc. identity). The notion of a ‘Russian’ identity seems to be no real problem in the Caucasus, but the effects from unfreezing the ethnic differences after the deep-freeze communist period tends to be very violent and volatile at the same time.
This is of importance to the education issue insofar as the building of a sense of community spirit and belonging is inhibited by such an amorphous foundation of societies, which are open for all kinds of inappropriate nationalist ideologies and populist ideas.
Education should transcend the limits of both nation-state and ethnic state identity. The pedagogical syllogism is quite striking: refugees and IDPs are living examples for such a transgression of nation states and integral political entities. Education as pre-emptive diplomacy is perhaps the most effective instrument to prepare refugees and IDPs for societies yet not realised.
c. While this approach refers to the background and serves as a basis for diversification of educational approaches in the implementation of education strategies, it should not hamper the efforts to act quickly and considering the other Soft Sector impacts on a given situation.
d. The next step from anamnesis to diagnosis or analytical preparation is crucial:
What consequences must be drawn from what we know about the status (individual, collective) of the refugees and IDPs?
This is rough profiling: While the pedagogical aspects need information about the educational status of the diverse groups within one cohort of refugees and IDPs, the Soft Sector approach will inform about the ‘environment’ which the cohorts come from and which they would need.
Example: some refugees have been dislocated for many years, they are almost ‘habitual displaced persons’. For them, ‘return’ and ‘duration of stay in a camp or provisional location’ has a completely different context from that for those, who were displaced or have only recently escaped, with fresh memories of their suffering and the circumstances of their rescue. One of the biggest dangers is the habitualisation of ‘privileging the marginalised’. While enlightened models of democracy usually refer to majority rule and minority protection, communitarian and value-based models tend towards ‘positive discrimination’. This phenomenon has produced many different examples, but in our case we can focus on one problem: The very moment it may seem to be desirable to remain in the status of refugees or IDP, the cause is lost. It may sound strange but by this a new sub-ethnicity is created in the host country.
e. Educational basics are principles and values, on which all work should be grounded. The following list is necessarily incomplete, however, it is ordered along the lines of practical educational work within the circumstances, which will be likely to prevail for the majority of refugees and IDPs. It tries to reconcile the means of direct action with the aims of the educational process.
Children have a right to their childhood, adolescents to their growing into society and their own future, and adults should be educated to become again masters of their biography. (This will lead towards a relativity of identity, and a growing importance of the building of personalities).
Education is the way to make them understand themselves in their real situation and to understand the situation as one to be coped with under irregular conditions (The life as permanent refugees, as we know it e.g. from some Palestinians, is the worst extreme among the negative perspectives)
Education should be based on the attempt to create a solid backbone of ‘life-world’ routines in the everyday life of refugees and IDPs. The process and procedures of learning should be given priority over an ideal and balanced curriculum. Learner-centred methods and approaches should be at the centre of all attempts.
Questions of belonging and the wishes to belong are as important as the notion of ownership and participation in social life.
Since the situation of all affected persons (clients, their peers and families, their supervisors and regulators etc.) is one complex network of interdependent structures, a ‘systemic’ approach is advisable: all related persons should be represented in the process of shared responsibilities as the basis for an organisational framework.
The creation of an artificial or virtual life within the educational ‘island’ should be avoided. Education can help to protect the integrity of individuals and groups, but it should not shut out the realistic view of the world and the specific environment with all its conditions, as it is.
There is no question that this catalogue complies with all charters and conventions on human rights, children rights and good practice in the field. However, the grounding on these principles requires still a high degree of flexibility and adaptability of a given system.
4. Regional Specifications
a. Most of the educational visions and their application to refugees and IDPs are universal and globally shared. However, there are among other differentiations some which relate to the regional context. Both, the Caucasian and the Balkan regions have undergone terribly violent conflicts, which range from civil wars to terrorism and violence exacted by organised crime. The main difference between the two areas is that the Caucasus was, until 1989, for almost a century totally immersed in a rigid system, while the Balkans have always been more disparate. The Soviet official ‘policy on nationalities’ had unsuccessfully, however efficiently, suppressed all kinds of multi-ethnicity beyond the folklore level, and caused a lot of suffering and toll by displacements and relocations. The Balkan and South East Europe history of the 20th century shows more than 50 such relocations and population shifts, which affected over 2 million persons and were both internally and externally induced, and had diverse reasons.
b. Since the end of the Cold War, information and analysis of the political situation in these regions in general, of refugees and IDPs in particular, is available on all levels of comprehension. It is not the aim of this document to review and abridge this rich material. The political framework for the following considerations is given by the fact that the circumstances of the Caucasus are mainly determined by the quest for establishing a nation-state, while in the Balkans similar ideas are overshadowed by the supra-national unification concept of the European Union. In both regions the idea of the traditional nation-state has come too late and runs the risk of creating ethnic people states rather than nation states in transition. This is of utmost importance for the future of IDPs and returning refugees.
c. Education in the 19th and early 20th centuries served the formation of the traditional nation state as one of its prime objectives. Its hidden curriculum was almost always focused on national identity, exclusion and collective assertion. There are strong tendencies to repeat this pattern under the present and totally different circumstances. While it is easy to agree that the old goals are no longer valid, it will be crucial for education to develop a new framework which looks into a future unleashed from the nationalistic and aggressive elements of history, both from the victims and the victors sides. While the old education had been inspired by imperialist external powers, the new framework should be based much more on the self-determined volition of the respective peoples. Therefore, a merely ethnic diversification as we find it in the Caucasus will not be successful; in this respect, the minimal cooperation in the Balkans provides more hope. All this affects the policies for refugees and IDPs even more than the rest of the population: because they are the living surface of the conflicts, and they represent their roots.
d. In the Balkans, we have some factors which must be considered in advance.
We call for an “anamnestic approach”, i.e. an effort to understand, what all refugees and IDPs in the region have in common, and what are specific needs of specific groups. Any concept should bear in mind that
- there were more than fifty population relocations, waves of displacement and forced migration, expulsion and permanent population drain over the last century, affecting over 2 million people (conservative estimate);
- there are two’modes’, which are never really congruent: On the one side there is wide variety of individual experience:traumatic memories of recent violence, rape, loss of family members, destruction of property, deprivation of future, and individual and group humiliation. This concurs with objective social and economic conditions, where education and the retention of cultural and customary strongholds might have become secondary (dis-rooting phenomenon). (The best examples are the dispute about the ‘Yugoslav’ versus ethnic (Croatian, Serbian…) identities, and consequently a different construction of ‘who has done what on which side?’.
Only one major group does not belong to the Slavic speaking majority of affected persons (Albanians mainly from Kosovo). However, the structures of Socialist education prevail in all systems, and are treated with different emphasis, though not along ethnic lines.
The ethnic question, which seems to be dominant in all problems, is more likely to be a construct, the elements of which: religion, language, conflict adversities and coalitions, and geographical and economic factors may have higher significance.
The post-war reality in former Yugoslavia concurs with the effects of non-war-related events (brain-drain, the petrification of IDP status of Serbs from Kosovo as IDPs in Serbia etc.). The issue of the status talks on Kosovo are a special case within the whole framework.
The high numbers of IDPs in Serbia pose a special problem due to the fact that the question of citizenship will gain in importance both by the implementation of the new state ‘Serbia-Montenegro’ and by the registration policies of the Kosovo provisional self-government.
For a legal account of the classification of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons see the official documents of UNHCR and, with special regard to our problems, the Essay by Michael Jandl: UNHCR´s Involvement with Internally Displaced Personas. (Harvard Law School, December 1996). While the impressive data of the paper are outdated, the basic change of paradigm into the ‘Situational approach’ is still valid. Cf. the recent updating for Serbia and Kosovo by UNMIK (Peggy Hicks, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General - SRSG). However, in none of these documents does education play a significant role in the prospect of implementing the rights of and support of IDPs.
- The Kosovo approach deserves special attention. The distinction between (legal) refugees and IDPs is vague because of the tricky relationship between the territory under SEC 1244 and the Republic of Serbia (now Serbia and Montenegro) and the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On a very small territory, many minority returns are being invited to resettle, which has become a rather successful agenda for UNMIK (The polite sharing of responsibility with the Provisional Institutions of Self Government hides the incompetence of this PISG and its strong restraints from acting according to the principles, which, as in all other fields of UNMIK rule, are unified under the slogan “standards before status”). This success is certainly not visible for the Serbs, either for those who were entitled to return to Kosovo of for those who are denied the right to re-settle there and dwell as IDPs in Serbia proper.
- Ms. Peggy Hicks, who is one of the most acclaimed experts in the field, has clearly adopted a situational approach, but the UNMIK administration must realise that a flawed negotiation base with the governments of FRY, Serbia and S-M has removed all hope for a fast and sustained solution of the problem. The education question is a function of talks on education between the two parties – and therefore in effect suspended. (cf. Documents and Records Assembly Meeting 10 July 2003).
Reference is made to Ms. Hicks and the policy of the SRSG because many of the problems are typical for all refugees and IDP situations. While the focus on ‘standards before status’ was the creed of the outgoing SRSG, this meant that certain standards and benchmarks would be conditional for any substantial frameworks in the upcoming talks on the status of Kosovo1. In a summary before the meeting of the Kosovo Assembly, Hicks explains this strategy, but also highlights very important obstacles, among them organised crime, lack of orientation, lack of funding (even where pledges had been made), and security.
The region has long experience of population exchanges, migration, and discrimination of minorities. However, the potential to absorb other groups is relatively high, mainly among Slavic speakers. The educational systems after 1945 have until today preserved a relatively unified pattern, imposed by the socialist governments. (This is also true for the Kosovo Albanians, who used to maintain a quasi-Yugoslav system of education even when underground 1992-1999). The relative level of education and science was well developed and notably higher than in other regions of the world. This explains why many refugees and IDPs, especially older ones, have a good level of education which can be made use of in the strategies of refugees education. The big problem is that the countries of origin, mainly Serbia and Croatia, are modernising, i.e. Europeanising, their systems much faster than other countries, such as Albania or Bosnia-Herzegovina. The refugees and IDPs must be prepared for such change and not focus on the successful tradition of the past. European standards are the key approach to unifying interests in education, cf. Bologna Process.
e. The same approach for the Caucasus region makes one aware of the fact that the region is geographically rather easy to locate, but ethnically and culturally even more diverse than the Balkans. While the Balkans enjoy one homogenous language area with one big exception (Albanian) and a few minority languages, the Caucasian region shows much more genuine diversity (as opposed to the constructed diversity in South East Europe). There is a greater religious and traditional variety and less clear political perspectives for not yet recognised political entities (such as Abkhasia): this indicates a different set of conditions that should be considered before action. There is also a great gap between prosperous and extremely poor economic conditions
The negative psychological reference for all recognised Caucasian countries is the continuation of a ‘Russian’ state (The Russian Federation or the Confederation of Independent States (CIS)), which creates nevertheless no positive common interest to foster regional cooperation, based on modern European standards. Economic development alone will not solve these problems. Abkhasia and Chechnya are good examples for the reluctance of all related players to tackle jointly fundamental problems. Cultural peculiarities, such as the exchange of alphabets and letters in some countries, are not really rational in any constructive sense, but easily become instruments of identity-building. The Turkish-Armenian conflict is also reflected in ambivalent policies of several European and American partners, and influences value patterns and ways of dealing with history. The real status (not the legal or symbolic one) of a group of refugees and IDPs will be determined also by the extent of recognition which the country or territory of origin enjoys with the major players in the international game.
These examples are significant for the difficulties to approach refugees and IDPs. Education in the Caucasian region might need a very strong international commitment with a tendency of elaborating common interests rather than follow an exaggerated policy of difference. Conflicts are likely to become defused by convincing and sustainable educational development than by formal democracy alone.
5. The Soft Sector Approach
Usually, education in conflict and post-war areas is conducted by more than one actor, i.e. the legitimate government in power. Many international and national agencies, GOs, NGOs and individual experts and supporters concur with local actors, regularly and irregularly employed in the education ‘system’ of a state, a territory, a province or a local structure. The same is true for the handling of refugees and IDPs. For both, the Balkans and the Caucasian region, it is true that the complexity is very high due to the impact of international interventions on diverse levels, depending on the political entity where the education for refugees and IDPs shall be established.
We hold that the rule of law is essential for all possible constellations of political and economic restructuring of a country, and that, consequently, all sectors of civil development should be placed under this rule. Thus, education must be given a formal and legitimate framework within a concept of the rule of law, irrespective of who is ‘in charge’ of this rule.
One of the best examples of incomplete compliance with this principle is the unclear mandate of SC Resolution 1244 on UNMIK rule in Kosovo, where all ‘Civil Administration’ is put under the responsibility of the UN, while ‘education’ and ‘health’ are claimed as to belong to the legitimate rights of the Republic of Serbia (and Montenegro) by the Government in Belgrade, because of the same Resolutions avoidance of fixing new political statuses for the political entities in the region. Another example is the consequence of the Dayton agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, creating 16 different systems of education following the lines of ethnically defined cantons.
Civil administration is a key element in peacekeeping and peace-building. For systematic reasons, and as one lesson learned from the Balkans after 1991, we make a basic distinction between ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ sectors. The first comprise, Security, Economy, Energy, Transport, Infrastructure, Labour and Employment. The latter comprise Education, science, Health, Social Protection and Social Policy, Labour Administration, Environment, Culture… Judiciary and the Media enjoy a special position between both Sectors.
The division is useful for some important aspects of reconstruction and reconciliation. While the Hard Sectors follow established patterns concerning investments, modes of operation, normative standards, and routines of implementation, which are not entirely, but to a high degree independent from the societal environment, this is not the case with the Soft Sectors: They depend highly on the actual social constructions, life-world realities, individual and collective idiosyncrasies and constellations.
Three main assumptions hold valid for the Soft and Hard Sectors approach:
§ Soft Sectors must be given priority support in order to stabilise both the Hard Sector development and the people’s trust in and motivation for civil society development;
§ Among all Soft Sectors, education and social protection have significant positions, which exert high impact on the other sectors;
§ Security and safety concepts must focus on the protection of Soft Sectors in a specific way.
In the case of education for refugees and IDPs, the Soft Sector approach allows a systematic strategy, i.e. on by which the different elements and factors of civil administration are not isolated.
The Grid of Sectors: (only the main sectors are listed)
HARD SECTORS SOFT SECTORS
ß MEDIA AND JURISDICTION ŕ
The approach implies that for the area of refugees and IDPs a policy should be adopted in analogy to the greater application of this approach for whole systems and governments. For education, this has the following implications:
It is necessary to identify those sectors, which are directly related to education:
- Buildings, where classrooms are needed
- Teachers salaries and pensions, where regular schooling can be envisaged
- Vocational training according to the realistic perspectives for employment among refugees and IDPs
- Civic education and instruction wherever participation of refugees and IDPs is wanted
- Safe transport of students and teachers
- Security measures to protect persons and installations
- Regular health care related to educational needs and appropriate prevention measures
It would be an exaggeration to demand solutions in of all these related sectors before the educational process can start. On the contrary, they should be included in the educational strategy in the course of establishing educational routines, which are student-centred, learning-focused, and with a practical relation to the refugees and IDPs environment. To what extent Soft Sector policies from the world outside the refugees and IDPs constellation can be transferred, should be investigated beforehand.
The Soft Sector approach requires a comprehensive concept for all education under its rule; i.e. education is not only a function and result of good governance, but one of its constituent elements.
6. Dealing with the Past
For systematic reasons, this report differentiates among the diverse stages of time-experience for the refugees and IDPs. Obviously, both in the Caucasus and the Balkans, the past, both far away and recent, plays a dominant role in the construction of ideological patterns and cultural habitus.
Probably there is no group in a conflict area which is so dependent on a permanent reflection of the past than refugees and IDPs. There is even a hypothesis that the past serves not only to re-establish a group identity, but is used to create a new one, where it had not been before or was completely different (Nora 2002). Of course, there are more and overlapping layers of past with refugees and IDPs: The recent past concurs or even competes with earlier layers, and all this is transported through the whole process of flight, rescue and displacement; the disentangling of these layers is one of the foremost educational aims.
The questions of where do I come from?, and where do I (want to) belong?, are inseparably linked to this aspect. However, it does not imply that education for refugees and IDPs should necessarily start with a kind of history teaching. The recent history and experience is probably highly traumatised and distorted. The disentanglement should rather begin with a subtle separation of subjective views (of the individuals) and those beliefs and perceptions constructed by the peers and the social group.
(Examples: For a raped women it may be more important to deal with her physical and mental wounds than with the honour of her clan; for a starving person, the rules of distribution of edibles according to established traditions may be secondary; for one who has lost its personal property, the rule of law may be at once important etc.)
On the other hand on can generalise that strong and sound social integration in the past may help to create ‘links’ which relieve individuals from their acute pains and help them to connect with a life-world both known and functional.
The diagnostic approach should try to start with investigation and identification of elements among the prevailing pattern. This will also allow one to decide to what extent peers among the refugees and IDPs should participate in the content side of education from the scratch. It is important to be aware of real religious commitment as opposed to religion as a make-up for outdated policies of clan and family powers.
Specifications for the Caucasus
How far should the pre-Soviet history play a legitimising or orientating role in concepts of collective remembrance and identity building The curriculum should make it clear that no historical fact whatsoever justifies per se concrete political action in the present.
Some of the Caucasian peoples have deep-rooted cultural characteristics which are most difficult to reconcile with modern and enlightened pluralistic concepts. This problem cannot be solved by further cantonisation or territorial containment for each and every tribe and clan. The pedagogical aim is therefore to create common interest.
Analysis of the remnants of the old Soviet thinking under the pretext of a new and changed view of the world shows that Ugrecic’s statement that the vocabulary has changed, but the grammar remains untouched, is very true also for the Caucasus.
The extreme economic imbalance and the related dependency on foreign investment and interests (oil and gas) should be reflected in the educational concepts.
Specifications for the Balkans
The Balkans and the rest of South East Europe have lost much of their constituent impact on the whole of Europe after World War I. Thus, historical continuity needs to be demystified and disarmed. The interface with the European enlightenment should be created by a sustained educational effort. “Too little territory for so much history”.
The pejorative view of Balkan characteristics has created an unhealthy competition between inferiority and stubborn supremacy myths. The deconstruction of this effect is not only a task for the diverse history projects (e.g. Council of Europe), but should underlie all curriculum.
Refugees and IDPs are confronted with many returnees and migrants to and from western countries, thus providing a proliferation of many more different opinions and values than in other refugees contexts. Many refugees and IDPs know the West quite well and therefore know the ideas represented by the international interventions.
7. Dealing with the Present
Being a refugee or becoming displaced is never normal. However, some groups have a long experience in living under such conditions, others experience them for the first time in their lives. The diagnostic approach can rely on broad and reliable research (UNHCR, IMIS etc.) in order to identify distinct groups, which need differentiated measures. In all cases, the educational basics, the Soft Sector grid, and one rationale should be at the beginning: the present should rather be used to prepare for the future than to cover them.
A rescued person will be grateful for a moment that his or her life has been saved. But then it is likely that concern for the future, the next week, months or years will become pivotal.
The principles for dealing with the present should be few, well based and applied with as few exceptions as possible:
§ Sense of respect and individual dignity
§ Critical realism
§ Applicable knowledge
§ Motivating further learning and education
§ Developing active participation and Community spirit
§ Planning for the future
§ Concentration on the ‘Life World’
§ Pleasure in education
Empowerment: refugees and IDPs are people in transition. They should be empowered to express their perspectives and aspirations. Education should lead them into an active life without complacency. Girls and women should be given special attention in as far as traditionally men are the dominant group in gender relations; people with direct scars and wounds from their refugee experience and displacement should be given special empowerment to return into their community (of less individually affected persons). Sharing of capacities should be supported.
Respect for the other is an important goal: despite the shared fates, the individual coping with them is so diverse that there is no one-way pattern of communication among the group. In order to respect it is necessary to know and to learn about the recent histories of the members of a community. And it is necessary to establish respectful communication between the refugees and IDPs and their counterparts from government, supervising and organising agencies and supporters. It should be avoided that a mood of ‘privileged marginalized’ can develop.
Critical realism simply means that the given circumstances need not be liked, but should be accepted as a basis for present and future action. Wishful thinking and the insistence of empty ‘rights’ can be avoided if education leads towards a rational perception of a given reality. (Example: as long as it is not decided whether return to the original homestead or new settlements will be part of solution, it is useful to exchange opinions, but not to press in the one or the other direction).
Applicable knowledge: Whatever is emphasised in the syllabus should have a strong connection with application and a certain utilitarian approach, at least for the time being. This means necessarily that all acquired knowledge should be ‘practical’, but applicable indicates that the ownership of the acquired qualification should be in the centre of the learner’s perspective.
Learning under hardship should motivate a demand for further education and more qualifications. It is important that all education for refugees and IDPs should point at a future situation where the status will have become ‘normal’, i.e. integrated in the education patterns of the permanent environment in the foreseeable future.
Education should support active participation of all clients in the agenda of their community. Democracy and the sense of ownership and republicanism should not be postponed until all problems are solved, but the solutions of problems (e.g. of conviviality and community building) should be prepared and ‘tested’ under the circumstances of refugee and IDP education.
Planning for the future is essential. There are quite a few visions ready to be developed: where do we want to belong and how do we want to live? The answers require a tough and unsentimental coping with the past and with individual experience. And the answers will depend on the objective status of the refugees and IDPs, so the ‘catchment’ of an educational activity should be aware of this. The establishment of self-victimisation and the role of outcasts should be avoided as a priority, while the critical realism should serve as a corrective to new myths for the future (Example: the overloaded vision of independence has hampered many efforts of Kosovo Albanians to deal properly with their presence both as refugees and permanents).
Concentration on the ‘Life-World’ is a key principle for education. The world of norms and rules for refugees and IDPs is highly important during the critical period of stabilising their community. Life-World, which includes neighbourhood, local informal communication, friendship and everyday habits, should become thematic in the curriculum and in the syllabus applied (this implies a warning against a ‘pathetic’ approach, which tries to explain the situation only on the normative level, while the moral and aesthetic round the clock standards are neglected and remain unchallenged). The problem of self-definition is central to this aspect. The Life-World approach also raises the question: who does teach, who shall teach? (The case study can be made with the diverse models after the exodus of thousands of Macedonians into Kosovo in 2001, when the Kosovo school system hosted many pupils and their teachers, and had to decide under which circumstances the whole system should be temporarily imported from Macedonia and when it should be integrated into the existing Kosovo structures).
Pleasure in education: The goal here is not simply a playful childhood. The joy of being able to learn is not accidental to the educating process, but essential for the formation of personalities. (There are not many children-soldiers in our two regions, but the example is striking: only education and the empowerment of an autonomous and rich perspective for the own future can heal and stabilise at the same time. In our case, the pleasure-factor should also avoid a precocious growing up into an adult world, which does not serve as a good example – in most cases).
Of course, the aspect of the present also includes drug prevention, gender education, hygiene and all other topics of an ‘ordinary’ education process. Hospitalisation and pseudo-autistic patterns of behaviour should be avoided – refugees and IDPs under restricted conditions of mobility should not adopt the attitudes of hospitalised patients, they are not under an explicit ‘therapy’, however many activities with refugees and IDPs have pseudo-therapeutic character; psychological supervision also of teaching staff and administrators is necessary from the beginning. This is an important aspect for the accreditation of external agencies which want to be included in the education of refugees and IDPs.
Education must also prevent a vicious circle, stemming from the increasing frustration common with many refugees and especially IDPs. When the vision of a good future fades away, this gives leeway to revengeful ideas and an increasing potential for violence.
A special problem for education is the westernisation of life-styles and its confrontation with the imperatives of old social patterns. This is true for both regions. In the Balkans, the particular Albanian aspect should be considered, as the reference to rules like the Dukagjini Code and the clan structure does not really represent the present state of mind, but can be used as a substitute for lacking alternative visions.
8. Dealing with the future
Both in the Caucasus and the Balkans the aspect of future is most precarious. What will be my life, our lives, in the foreseeable future and in the long term? To be very clear about this point: for many refugees and IDPs there is no future perspective available as we, in the West, would define it. This is also true for a large part of the rest of the population. Future does not exist ‘as such’ and unto itself. In many cases, it is nothing but a perpetuation of the miserable present and therefore not desirable or wanted. We can identify several impediments to the construction of a liveable future:
- The myth of problem solution through one single issue strategy: e.g. independence for the Kosovo Albanians, ethnic purity for other groups, or the immediate effects from foreign aid.
- The postponement of life-world improvement by forcing the Hard Sectors: e.g. privatisation at a premature stage of reintegration of a society.
- Illusions about material standards of living and the related perpetuation of foreign support and internal subsidising.
- Unrealistic hopes for social protection and health care on standards known only by hearsay or from previous experience as guest-workers and other acquaintance with more prosperous societies.
We hold that the construction of a good future relies on three basic principles:
- Support the re-integration of refugees and IDPs in their respective societies as fast as possible, and prepare them for this integrative process through education.
- Give priority to the building of a civil society and civic virtues (as different from for a priority market-oriented democracy as a first step).
- Support a new-beginning approach with the refugees and IDPs and do not return, even temporarily, to structures of the past.
These basics seem to be trivial. But especially the third one has major implications for the educational concept and what we would like to call “partial de-historisation”. It is clear and established that the past as collective history is always an essential element of society building and conceptualising of the future. But especially for refugees and IDPs, the over-emphatic account of the past, often as myth, can be treacherous. Empty or virtual rights and legitimacies are being constructed instead of facing both: the political and the moral reality of their fate. If there are claims to regain property, the solution is the establishment of the rule of law, and if there are demands for punishment of the perpetrators of the recent past, the same priority applies.
9. Civic Education and Dealing with the Future
It may be uncommon to link these two elements of education. In the case of refugees and IDPs, they should be linked in any educational approach. The understanding of a situation, where future shall be constructed, requires both: civic education and an understanding of labour and occupation in order to play a role in the political and social life of the group and the society into which this group will be embedded.
a. Albeit the development of a critical mind is among the noblest educational aims, the education process itself should not be based on a negative foundation. (To paraphrase the German philosopher Adorno: in this kind of education it is necessary to aim at a right life within the wrong one). Thus, the education of all refugees and IDPs should be based on the positive basis that, at least, they are the ones who are given a chance, and they are the ones who can turn their lives from survival to active life. (The positive concept can be based on Hannah Arendt’s assumptions that being born is a positive concept in itself, and enables a person to be an active member in a sphere of public polity, which is necessary for the refugees and IDPs to emancipate themselves from their unwanted fate).
b. The civic virtues, which may also serve as a guideline and orientation for the curriculum, are primarily the following:
- Responsibility in a ‘republican’ sense
- Acceptance of the rule of law and the basic institutions
- Reliability and trust
These five virtues are basically what is needed for the building of democracy in every society. For refugees and many IDPs, it is crucial that they answer the question: whose society? There are two basic concepts: the return to an original society of belonging or an original environment; and the integration into a new, foreign, alien or even adversary society. Citizenship and ownership are qualities, which develop long before they become formalised, say in an act of naturalisation or conferring a new ‘nationality’. The step from being an refugeesto becoming a citizen (with or without the middle step of being a ‘co-citizen’ (which basically means, a second class citizen), is critical to all education. Without an active participation of the refugees and IDPs in their own formative process, there is little chance to accomplish. ‘Republican’ means, on the one hand, that the rule of law is applicable without exception within the community of refugees and IDPs, irrespective of the behaviour and attitudes of both the peers and the surrounding ‘normal’ society; on the other hand, it means that certain spheres are respected as belonging to the ‘public’ sphere, as different from the ‘private’ sphere. This is touchy insofar as many cultural and traditional, also religious ‘privata’ must become part of the public discourse in order to get moved. A civil society in our understanding requires a peaceful and well-ruled process of competition among different values, lifestyles, convictions and life-world patterns. It is absolutely necessary to prevent the interpretation that the right to identity includes individual and collective refusal of the rule of law. And it is useful that education prepares for a trusting relationship between the citizens and the basic institutions, such as school, health systems, social protection and the general administration. Both the citizen and the institution should be reliable and trustworthy.
c. It is evident that the basic education for all refugees and IDPs should follow normal routines for the people ordered by age-group, capability and capacity. But for refugees and IDPs it is even more important that they get soon a connection between their individual development and the world of labour. If it were not cynical in many places, we should adopt the core goal of the EU education policy, ‘employability’, for our concept in the first place. In most cases however any regular employment is out of reach. Thus, the preparation by training and civic education should point even more effectively to the practical capacities of each student and adult in education, to produce and to earn a living through regular work. (It is part of the civic aspect of education to prevent people in general, refugees and IDPs in particular, from sliding into a criminal career simply from the fact that they have never learned how to work and that they would never be given a chance to work).
d. Returning to the important decision (as described in Chapter 3) on whether refugees and IDPs shall be integrated as soon as possible into their new environment or shall be kept there under the imperative of return, educational consequences are crucial, both for civic education and vocational perspectives. Integration as a concept requires a functioning public education system which is ready to absorb a certain number of refugee children or adolescents. As long as language is not a big problem, and religion is not really divisive, such a strategy may be recommended, especially when foreign aid can be diverted into the school system easily and teachers are available (e.g. as was the case with many Macedonian-Albanian refugees in 2001, who got good education opportunities in Kosovo for some time, many of them with no clear idea about returning, others prepared to go as soon as possible). Of course, such a strategy requires a timely allocation of refugees and IDPs within the community, and this refers again to the Soft Sector environment. Civic education in this context should focus on a binary value-track, i.e. allow differentiated learning of both the original and the new cultural contexts. In the vocational field, special care should be given the competition for attractive work-places.
If, however, a concept of return is being given priority, then the educational consequences are quite different: the preparation for return should be pivotal. The basic outlay of the EmpoR-project can be taken as a model, which is also transferable to refugeesand IDP situations. The return-strategy requires a scenario where the environment of refugees and IDPs is treated ‘like a foreign country’. If integration into the surrounding society is not an aim, then the conviviality and the social contacts should be prepared in a rather different way: from the side of the refugees and IDPs, categories such as gratitude, respect for and acceptance of temporary rules gain in importance. Of course, the intermediate stage of waiting and preparing for return should never end in an insular situation with strong elements of segregation or even detention (such as in Australia), and for education it is important to translate the temporary and the permanent set of values and living conditions. Civic education can utilize this situation by choosing a comparative approach in order to provide the returnees with a positive and understanding follow-up from their dwelling in a host-country. Vocational training, on the other hand, should mainly concentrate on what the returnees will find after their return instead of reflecting real labour market conditions in the host country.
10.1 General Recommendations
1) Education is the key sector to stabilize the social and cultural situation of refugees and IDPs. It is equally important to prepare for any kind of return, irrespective to which place, and for the integration of refugees and IDPs into a new social and cultural environment.
2) Education for refugees and IDPs can become a powerful tool of pre-emptive diplomacy and a major factor in peace-keeping operations.
3) Any ‘situational’ approach requires a careful review of the legal status of refugees and new international binding rules for IDPs and returnees.
4) Education under post-war and post-conflict conditions should be pragmatic and not attempt to transfer models from safe and prosperous societies. Educational institutions should be protected as a priority, wherever the environment is still violent or war-stricken.
5) The right to education should not be restricted to primary education. All age groups and types of refugees and IDPs should be supplied with a maximum of educational care.
6) The major educational aims should always focus on the fact that being a refugee or a displaced person is under no circumstance normal and should never become normal. All education has a community building component, into which the clients should be included.
7) Education for refugees and IDPs should always be embedded into a concept of Soft Sector policy
8) The systematic approach should always reflect the interdependency between most Soft Sectors, as are:
Education, science and training
Public health, prevention
9) They must interact within the limitations of a refugee and IDP situation with some priority Hard Sectors:
Rule of Law
Housing and food
Occupation and Employment
Security and Safety
10) The educational strategy should be based on an objectivisation of the subjective disposition of the target groups. This means that education should not directly build on the perception of the clients’ self-references, but create a sort of observing and attentive distance. The main components are:
Languages (potential for multi-lingualism)
Previous economic status (including property)
These five categories serve for any curriculum construction within concepts of ethnicity, civilisation and culture.
11) The inclusion of the clients and the participation of competent refugees and IDPs in the educational process should be supported. Even short-term organisation of education should provide in-service training of this group.
12) There are two basic objectives for all policy: a focus on return and a focus on integration into the host community. Whatever is decided politically must be communicated clearly to the clients. This is a major educational task.
10.2. Specific keywords
Certain key words in the text are taken up and explained in this list :
Educational strategies for refugees and IDPs, especially in such complex and problematic regions such as the Balkans and the Caucasus, must be aware of the historical and cultural realities (or constructs) that form the background of the present humanitarian crisis. Education must be context-specific and ‘embedded’.
The status of being a refugee or IDP is fundamentally defined by a desorientation or a loss of the sense of where to belong. Education must be aware of not imposing an artificial sanctuary. The starting point for all educational efforts is that the refugees and IDPs have a right to belong to a larger entity/community but at the moment is denied this right.
Since the future circumstances of refugees and IDPs are uncertain (return or permanent emigration?), education must help and enable them to live in a transitory world by keeping alive the existing cultural traditions and competencies and preparing for integration into a new social and cultural environment. There is a danger in returning refugees and IDPs to a society which has changed substantially in the meantime. Education should also make it clear to the clients that some of their social and cultural rights and titles may have disappeared in the meantime. Legal counselling should be part of the education process.
Everywhere, education has a community building aspect to it that should also apply to refugees and IDPs. Thus, it should not be limited to children and adolescents but encompass young and old in an effort to make education an effective tool for the formation of a (temporary) community (systemic approach)
The curriculum for refugees and IDP education in all its various aspects must follow one crucial goal: It must pave the way for the refugees and IDPs to regain control of their lifes in the most practical sense. Learning must open the path to overcome victimization. Therefore, practical skills of direct relevance to the given circumstances take priority over knowledge acquisition for its own sake. The curriculum should aim at democratic élites and citizens who are active in their community. This does not mean that education should be elitist. But a community of refugees and IDPs and the respective community, which will receive them in the future, will need democratic élites rather than outdated traditional peers.
Since relevance is the main criterion for refugees and IDP education, the learner in his/her present circumstances has to be in the centre (and not an abstract set of educational goals and procedures). Determining what is relevant to the specific group of refugees and IDPs has to become part of the educational process and a way of rebuilding confidence in the learners’ own strength. Because many refugees and IDPs suffer from traumas and other grave learning indispositions, a special ‘didactic’ approach should be developed.
In the case of refugees and IDPs, “identity” can be an ambiguous concept as it can imply a defensive attitude or intransigent norms. Education should offer a complementary or alternative frame of reference by emphasizing the development of “personalities”. The right to identity is often a misunderstood account to self-defined perceptions within a group. An open society requires a certain competition concerning life-worlds, value patterns, and life-styles. A mature personality can discriminate without sacrificing his or her personal opinion and point of view.
Participation and Shared Responsibilities
Education means enabling and empowering. Thus, it must be organized in such a way that it activates the existing capacities of refugees and IDPs to take control again of their present and future lives. This is not the result, but the ongoing ‘methods’ of the educational process. Therefore, participation and shared responsibilities are essential in fostering self-reliance.
It is recommended that the legal status of refugees and IDPs is steadily developed, but not to the disadvantage of situational pragmatic policy reflecting the concrete circumstances. Education in refugee camps will vary significantly from education within an existing education system with institutions and a sound organisation. Multi-cultural situation can be more easily created than multi-ethnic ones. Cantonisation is not a recommended strategy for education.
A sustainable Soft Sector strategy is important for any successful education policy. This requires a tight coordination between the players, both local and international, who are in charge of the civil reconstruction of societies and the care for refugees and IDPs. The accreditation of education programs should include a minimum of checking the basics of Soft Sector policy, especially in the fields of education and social protection.
EDUCATION OF REFUGEES AND INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS
European Youth Centre Budapest, 10 September 2003
Mr Huseynov (Rapporteur) thought that education was a small but important component in dealing with every humanitarian catastrophe which provoked a flow of refugees. Education was a basic right for all. The highest concentration of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Europe was in the Caucasus and the Balkans, hence these two regions deserved special attention in the report in preparation. Refugees and IDPs were the product of wars and inter-state and inter-ethnic conflicts. While a solution was being sought to deal with these causes of human displacements by such bodies as OSCE, the Council of Europe could do much to alleviate the suffering of these people. Although the rights of refugees and IDPs were legally protected by various international texts, ranging from the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights (art. 14) to the Geneva Convention, and significant ground work was done by various international organisations and NGOs, education was the most vulnerable element. There were various approaches to dealing with educational problems: from full integration of refugees and IDPs in the education system of the host country to the creation of a parallel system. Certain refugees, even housed in tents, could receive education in their mother tongue, such as the refugees from Armenia in Azerbaijan. It was far more difficult for those who found themselves isolated in a totally unknown linguistic environment, for instance Afghan, Kurd and other refugees in Ukraine and Russia. Many of them did not attend school for that reason. Azerbaijan hosted more than one million refugees and IDPs. The variety of the problems had to be taken into account when they were examined in a European context.
Mrs Lauritzen, UNHCR representative in Hungary, welcomed the Committee’s involvement in refugee education, which was a crucial and essential part of the assistance efforts of her organisation. UNHCR was responsible for the international protection of refugees and other persons of concern as well as for seeking durable solutions to their plight. There were currently some 22 million persons of concern to UNHCR. Refugees were defined in art. 1 of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Basically, their departure from their country of origin was involuntary, for fear of prosecution, and differed from that of migrants, whose departure was mostly voluntary, prompted by the wish to seek a better future. Art. 22 of the 1951 Geneva Convention referred specifically to obligations of contracting States in the field of education of refugees. When dealing with this issue, it was important to include not only refugees but also IDPs (who were not under UNHCR mandate unless so requested by the General Assembly or the Secretary General of the United Nations), asylum seekers and returnees, as well as stateless persons and (in Hungary) those “authorised to stay”. The challenge was to ensure reasonable educational provision for such persons whilst keeping in mind the long term solutions.
The situation in Europe differed from that in most other parts of the world in so far as it was not usually a matter of massive influx of displaced persons but more a question of individual cases. Central and East European countries were considered by most asylum seekers as transit countries. The journey towards their final destination was long and dangerous and in that period the educational and psychological requirements of children were at stake.
The Chairman asked for data on the number of refugees in Europe.
Mrs Lauritzen said there were no statistics about the region covered by the Council of Europe as such but she could provide statistics on individual countries.
Mr. Daxner (consultant expert) believed that in Europe globalisation meant in the first place Europeanisation. It would take many years for the new Europe to emerge from the many old Europes.
He insisted that the existence of refugees should never be accepted as normal. Yet it was significant. There had been more than 50 displacements in the Balkans over the last century. Moral and psychological issues were at stake: a person suffering the fate of displacement always carried a history of torture, famine, rape and deprivation. Therefore education should only be part of a systemic approach, involving also politicians, social workers etc. One of the most difficult issues was whether an educational policy for refugees should be directed towards their integration in the host country or should help them return. There was no general rule but it was important to rationalise the decision. The wishes of the refugees and the intentions of host countries should be taken into account. The main thing was however not to make refugee status permanent, as was the case in the Lebanese and Syrian refugee camps, where the third generation of refugees were children who did not know the meaning of the word “home”.
Once the survival of refugees was assured, education and social protection were the two pillars on which their future was built. The highest priority was the respect of rule of law and the more buffers there were between it and education, the more likely the two would fail.
Without commenting on the reasons for the displacement of persons, he felt it was relevant to note, with regard to education, that a common factor between the Balkans and the Caucasus was that they were emerging from communist systems in which education had been used as a tool for enforcing nationalist ideologies.
He also noted that in contrast to rebuilding roads, housing or energy plants, the rebuilding of viable health and education systems was extremely difficult and expensive in a post-conflict situation. There was considerable room for corruption, the costs were high and donors easily discouraged.
The countries from the Balkans and the Caucasus should pause from focussing on their past and begin to look into the future when dealing with refugees.
Vocational training was a vital part of education for refugees because they needed more than ordinary schooling and, above all, a great deal of personal, psychological encouragement and empowerment and time to develop self respect.
Mr Devinsky asked Mr Daxner to elaborate on the chances of creating an efficient educational system for refugees and IDPs in Kosovo.
Mr Korobeynikov referred to Mr Daxner’s remark about globalisation starting with Europeanisation and thought that this would be a good approach for tackling the problems of refugees and IDPs.
Mr Daxner said that in Kosovo there was an urgent need for primary and secondary education for refugees and IDPs. When head of UNMIK Education, he had assigned higher education for Serbs to the University of Mitrovica since the University in Pristina did not allow any Serbs in. He had favoured an integrative system as both previous systems – the official Yugoslav and the parallel system for the Kosovo Albanians – were outdated.
Different regions of the world indeed needed intermediate steps towards globalisation, which had been achieved at an economic level, but they needed more time for adjustment at a political, social and cultural level. In the educational field this meant recognition of diplomas in foreign countries, this being especially important for refugees and IDPs.
Ms Temporal, Senior Education Officer in UNHCR, emphasized that UNHCR uphelds education as a fundamental human right as stipulated in the 1951 Refugee Convention as well as in various international instruments and declarations including the Framework for Action on Education For All and Millennium Development Goals. Education was a key to the future of the refugees. It had to be started at the earliest stage of emergency. UNHCR together with implementing partners and in partnerships with governmental bodies and other UN Agencies had been undertaking measures to provide basic education and achieve gender parity in education. The publication of the UNHCR Education Field Guidelines in February 2003 was one of the initiatives that UNHCR had done to improve the management of refugee education programmes. Issues and challenges in the process pf fulfilling the rights of refugees to education were many. Only about 36% of UNHCR’s population of concern had had access to education when the aim was to provide all school-age children with primary education. The other barriers to education and the recommendations made by the Assembly in Rec. 1596 (2003) on the situation of young migrants in Europe (and see Doc. 9645) also applied to refugees/IDPs. In addition, refugees in a number of host countries were excluded from schools even if those countries were signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Even if education was regarded by refugees as their priority, this was not equally matched with funding resources as prioritised by decision-makers and donors. Education was viewed as a “soft” sector and had often to compete with assistance for survival, hence, it had not been given the proper attention and priority that was deserved. Unlike food and clothing, education had a lasting effect on refugees as this was the only thing that they carried with them wherever they go. Education was not only mind-saving it was also life-saving. It was a tool for protection of children and youth and an instrument for social cohesion. Equal access and opportunities to education should therefore be unequivocably supported.
The Chairman stressed that the Committee considered education as a priority in all circumstances, and this included refugees and IDPs.
Ms Schmidt, Programme Manager of the Hungarian Language School, introduced the young people who were going to share their experiences with the Committee. They all had refugee status and studied Hungarian. They had all integrated well into their host country although they had encountered many problems along the way.
Christian, D. M, 29, refugee from Cameroon, had seen many foreigners living in Hungary who were managing to get by without learning Hungarian. For him, however, learning the language of the host country was vital for his integration, and was also a way of showing his gratitude to the country which had given him refugee status. Thousands of prosecuted people around the world were not that lucky. The Hungarian language, however, was very difficult. On his arrival he had been caught in a vicious circle – he had to learn the language in order to find a job and integrate, but at the same time he had to work in order to sustain himself and pursue his language studies. He had passed a state language exam and wished to strengthen his knowledge but his job in an international company in Hungary was taking up all his time. State aid for refugees should perhaps be shortened to one year, rather than the current three, but during this time the refugees should do nothing but learn the language.
Mr Devinsky was interested in Christian’s educational background and the Chairman wished to know whether he would stay in Hungary.
Christian explained that he had a college degree as a journalist and had continued his studies by correspondence on his arrival in Hungary. He intended staying as his wife was Hungarian.
Amalia K., 36, refugee from Armenia, also found Hungarian very difficult and thought that at least six months were necessary in order to get the basics. However, studies alone were not enough, one had to be able to communicate with local people. The university studies that she had started in Armenia were of very high level and she was unable to pursue them now because of insufficient knowledge of the language and because of financial constraints. Earning a living had to be the priority. Her son would soon start his secondary studies at school. He was already fluent in Hungarian and was helping the family but was too young to start work.
Dusan M., 30, refugee from Serbia, had completed a university degree in medical sciences just before coming to Hungary four years ago and it had been difficult to find the psychological motivation to start from scratch in order to learn Hungarian. He had also been caught in the vicious circle of language-job. He had soon realised that a basic knowledge of the language only amounted to finding a basic job. The quality of his life had improved in parallel with a better knowledge of Hungarian. It had taken him two years in order to achieve the level which enabled him to use his professional competence in the way he would have done in his home country. He had found a very good job as a medical doctor in a pharmaceutical company.
Lika M., 21, refugee from Georgia (Abkhazia), had been a first-year university student when she had to flee her country without even being able to take her documents with her. She had made good progress in learning Hungarian, although not enough to be able to study. For the time being, she and her younger brother had to work in the grocery business of their parents in order to make a living. She dreamed of becoming a “normal” person, able to pursue her university studies and to take her destiny in her own hands. She was jealous when friends of hers told her how many interesting things they were doing as students. Financial problems were the biggest obstacle.
Jusup N., refugee from Russia (Chechnya), had lived in Moscow but with the troubles in Chechnya had started having conflicts with his schoolmates. He had become a very successful junior wrestler. When his family arrived in Hungary he was 15 and he had found the first six months very difficult, without any friends and with all his free time occupied by the study of Hungarian. He enrolled in a bilingual (Russian - Hungarian) secondary grammar school but the tuition fee was a heavy burden for his family. Nevertheless, his fees were reduced because of his excellent marks. He was a national junior champion in wrestling. However, he could not participate in international competitions abroad because of visa problems. He had been sent back by the immigration authorities on his first trip abroad.
The Chairman pointed out that, normally, top sportsmen received all the facilities in order to obtain the nationality of the country for which they were competing and Mrs Lauritzen assured him that the UNHCR offices could help in obtaining the appropriate travel permits.
Michael S., 21, refugee from Ethiopia, had finished high school in his country and wanted to continue his education but the school that he had found had asked him 2000 USD for tuition fees. The Hungarian refugee office had been unable to help.
Mrs Garamol explained that the office could not fund studies in private schools and advised Michael to find a public school where tuition would be free of charge. Mrs Skarbřvik encouraged him to try different schools.
Mrs Skarbřvik and Mr McNamara asked whether the Hungarian government required a specific level of language and whether there were exams.
Mr Daxner asked the young refugees to say how their refugee status had made life more difficult for them than for ordinary migrants and whether they intended to stay in Hungary or to return to their countries of origin.
Dusan was satisfied with his position and intended to stay.
Christian found that the refugee status did not give him a permanent position but for the time being it was satisfactory.
Amalia was satisfied with her Hungarian language studies which she believed were also a sign of respect for Hungary and for Europe. However, financial constraints placed a very heavy burden on refugees. Making a living, not studying, was the biggest problem.
Jusup believed his status gave him security and peace of mind and allowed him to enjoy his life and his work. He wished to stay.
Michael was happy with his status but regretted not being able to work. He had spent nine months in Hungary living in a Red Cross camp and found it difficult to pay for a ticket into town.
Mr Dobo, Head of the Refugee Directorate in the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior, dealt with the granting of refugee status but also involved facilitating the integration of refugees. Education, including that of adults, was a vital condition for it. Learning the language of the host country was extremely important. Other agencies and bodies should also play a role. The rights of recognised refugees were very close to those of Hungarian citizens. Elementary education was compulsory for recognised refugees and became so for other children with residence permits after spending one year in Hungary. Even before that parents could opt for public education.
Although schools received subsidies for teaching children with different difficulties, they did not receive extra funds for dealing with refugees or asylum seekers. Parents of refugee children were entitled to a school enrolment benefit once a year through the local municipality. Refugees were also entitled to preparatory Hungarian language training free of charge but no schools had yet passed the necessary test for a licence under this provision. Meanwhile the UNHCR was funding a few elementary schools.
The government was now trying to adopt an inter-ministerial approach to the problem. Unfortunately the Ministry of Education had been unable so far to appoint a specific unit dealing with refugee education. No specific methods existed on how to prepare refugee children for the requirements of compulsory education. The system in general needed to be reviewed, in the context of the general review of the educational and social system.
Adult education was an important element in the education of refugees. The mutual recognition of diplomas between countries was also an issue on which a progress had to be made.
To his knowledge there was no general rule for language requirements in order to find a job. Such requirements existed in the past for certain professions, such as doctors, but had been scrapped.
In a way refugees were privileged as they could apply for naturalisation after three years residence in Hungary, compared to eight for other foreigners.
Jusup asked for clarification concerning Hungarian citizenship.
Mr Dobo replied that the final decision by the President of the Republic should be taken within 21 months of the application.
The Chairman referred to a report on the Bologna process which had been prepared by the Committee and had just been adopted by the Standing Committee. Was Hungary a party to the Bologna process?
Mr Gabor, Head of Department of International Relations, Hungarian Ministry of Education, replied positively. The goals under this agreement had to be achieved by 2010. The universities had just introduced the credit transfer system (ECTS). An amendment of the current law on recognition of diplomas was being prepared by the Ministry. The current dual system of universities and other higher education institutions made it difficult to align the existing qualifications and this was why the government was moving towards a linear system.
Mr Kováts, Project coordinator of the Menedék Association for Migrants, said that more than 170 000 people had crossed the Hungarian border over the last 10 years seeking asylum – most of them using it as a transit country, others returning home. Although mass movements of this kind had been experienced by Hungary and its neighbours in the first half of the 20th century, the 40 years of closed borders under communism had left the country without the necessary experience in receiving people in need of protection. Most arrivals at present were from remote regions of other continents.
The education of these people was crucial in determining their economic and social integration.
In relation to compulsory education, schools which catered for foreign pupils (foreign schools, bilingual schools) had far fewer problems than those which had to face the arrival of refugees (in neighbourhoods with foreign communities or close to reception centres). Most of the problems arose from three sources: 1/ Although the legislative background might be in place, there was no comprehensive policy to support it and those responsible for its implementation were not sufficiently informed. There was lack of support in securing access to education for families in difficult social situations. 2/ Teacher training did not include dealing with the inadequate language competence of the foreign pupils. Most schools were handling the situation as well as they could but teachers were nevertheless overburdened, there was no funding for extra costs and no professional control. 3/ Socio-cultural differences between the local and the foreign children created conflicts in the classroom. These problems occurred less frequently in well-established and integrated foreign communities, but were routine when refugee reception centres were nearby. Local communities would go as far as preventing foreign children from enrolling in the local school fearing that the quality of education would deteriorate.
Certain refugees were highly motivated to enrol in higher education studies but their insufficient level of Hungarian and financial difficulties made this task difficult.
Mr Devinsky asked whether Mr Kovats’ association cooperated with the Ministry of Education. ECTS was not a solution as most refugees came from countries where this did not exist.
The Chairman pointed out that successful integration of refugees was more than just learning a language and wondered what other social and cultural activities could be developed.
Mr Kováts said that his association had not entered into discussions with the Ministry of Education. The problem with qualifications was that many refugees had had to flee without even taking their identification documents with them, let alone their diplomas. Several initiatives for the integration of refugees had been taken by NGOs, such as training manuals.
Mrs Koháry, Director of the Hungarian Language School, said that before the fall of communism there had been almost no foreigners settling in Hungary and therefore there were no adequate language training facilities. Now that there were more than 80 different countries represented amongst the students in the school, there was a need for special teaching techniques, curricula and teacher training. The school was therefore confronted with several difficulties, not so much of a financial nature (they received a grant from the European Union), but in terms of methodology and sharing experience with other schools. Although this was not in the school’s jurisdiction, she was also trying to help refugees with their social, legal and family problems in cooperation with the relevant ministries and NGOs. There was however no umbrella organisation to tackle the whole range of problems.
It was a mistake to believe that refugees should only concentrate on language learning upon their arrival in the host country. For those of them who found this very difficult it could turn counterproductive and discourage them totally. Language training had to be coupled with the granting of provisional employment opportunities such as voluntary work. For the most untrained refugees, some basic level of integration should be offered, for instance as social workers or through the performance of other socially useful tasks.
Mrs Skarbřvik understood the importance of education and the financial difficulties that hampered it. She wondered whether the state should impose compulsory language training.
Mrs Koháry did not believe that compulsory language training was the solution for everybody. Different people found different solutions – for instance Amalia’s son was in a normal Hungarian school although he had lost two years, whilst Jusup had found a special bilingual school. Schools in general had to be flexible, so that they could deal with individual situations.
Mr Daxner concluded that the situation of refugees in Hungary was “on a first class coach”, compared to most of the rest of the world. Discussions on the best curriculum, number of hours, choice of teachers etc. were a matter of sophistication compared to the urgent needs of thousands of refugees in the world’s hot spots. There, the aim should be to meet at least the minimum educational standards of the host country. The problem was that in many cases host countries did not wish refugees to settle and were therefore not necessarily ready to install inclusive systems. Politicians and donor conferences always concentrated their efforts on dealing with the hard sectors and there was little understanding that the soft sector and education in particular was just as “hard” and no less expensive. Education and security were interdependent.
The young refugees had described their language learning situations, but it would have been just as interesting to learn about their cultural integration. Refugees and displaced persons were also bearers of their own cultures. The main question was whether refugees should return. More displacements were likely to happen in the future and a continued commitment by parliamentarians was needed.
Mr Huseynov thanked all the participants including the young refugees. This was a very noble discussion because it touched upon very important subjects for the development of the human person. He had written a schoolbook which had been introduced in several schools in Azerbaijan, including a refugee school where he had taught for one year. Education played a crucial role for integration into society and therefore all those concerned should join their efforts.
The Chairman closed the hearing by thanking everyone. He recalled that Mr Huseynov’s report should be adopted by the Committee on 17 October.
List of participants
MM. de Puig, Chaiman Spain
Barquero Vásquez Spain
Dačić Serbia and Montenegro
Gündüz S. Turkey
Huseynov R. Ukraine
McNamara United Kingdom
Mrs Muttonen Austria
Mr O’Hara United Kingdom
Mrs Petrova-Mitevska “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” MM
MM. Sfyriou Greece
Mrs Skarbřvik Norway
Mrs Westerlund Panke Sweden
Mr Wodarg Germany
Prof. Dr Daxner
Ms Nemia Temporal, Senior Education Officer, Geneva
Mrs Francoise Lauritzen, Representative in Hungary
Ms Andrea Szobolits, Public Information Officer
Mr Imre Bárány, Programme Assistant
Ms. Ilona Koháry, Director, Hungarian Language School
Ms. Ildiko Schmidt, Programme Manager, Hungarian Language School
Mr. András Kováts, Project Co-ordinator, Menedék Hungarian Association for Migrants
Dr. István Dobó, Head of Refugee Directorate, Office for Immigration and Nationality, Ministry of the Interior
Mr Gábor Nagy, Head of the Department of International Relations, Ministy of Education
Ms. Ilona Arczt, Chief Counsellor of the Human Rights Committee of the National Assembly
Ms Csilla Dér, Legal Officer, Office of the Commissioner for Educational Rights, Ministry of Education
Dr. Katalin Haraszti, Deputy Head of Department, Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights
Six young refugees selected by UNHCR
European Youth Centre of Budapest
Mrs Rothemund, Director
Committee on Culture, Science and Education Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
MM Grayson, Head of Secretariat for Culture, Science and Education
Ary, Secretary to the Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Mrs Theophilova, Co-Secretary
Mrs Nothis, Administrative Assistant
Reporting committee: Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Reference to committee: Doc. 9237 and Ref. No 2657 of 8.11.2001 modified by Ref. 2713 of 26.3.2002
Draft recommendation adopted unanimously by the committee on 17 October 2003
Members of the committee: MM. de Puig (Chairman), Baronne Hooper MM. Prisacaru, Smorawinski (Vice-Persons), Apostoli, Banks, Barbieri (Alternate: Tirelli), Mrs Bemelmans-Vidal, MM. Berceanu, Braga, Buzatu (Alternate: Ionescu), Mrs Castro: (Alternate: Mr Varela i Serra), MM. Chaklein, Colombier, Cubreacov, Dačic, Dalgaard, Mrs Damanaki, Mr Debono Grech, Mrs Delvaux-Stehres Mr Devinski, Mrs Domingues, Mrs Dromberg, Mrs Eymer, Mrs Fehr, Mrs Fernández-Capel (Alternate: Mrs Agudo), MM. Gadzinowski, Galchenko, Galoyan, Gentil, Mrs Glovacki-Bernardi, MM. Goutry, Gündüz I, Gündüz S, Gunnarsson, Mrs Hadziahmetoviċ, MM. Hegyi, Howlin (Alternate: Mooney), Huseynov R, Iannuzzi, Jakic, Jakovljev, Jarab, Jurgens, Mrs Katseli, Mr Kocharian, Mrs Labucka, MM. Legendre, Lengagne, Letzgus, Libicki, Livaneli, Mrs Lucyga, MM. Lydeka, Malgieri, Marxer, McNamara, Mrs Melandri, MM. Melnikov, Mestan, Mezihorak, Mrs Milotinova, Mrs Muttonen, Mr O’Hara, Mrs Ohlsson, MM. Podeschi, Rakhansky (Alternate: Kosyanenko), Rockenbauer, Rybak, Mrs Samoilovska-Cvetanova, MM. Schneider, Shybko, Sizopoulos, Mrs Skarbřvik, MM. Sudarenkov (Alternate: Korobeynikov), Tusek (Alternate: Grissemann), Vakilov, Mrs Westerlund Panke, MM. Wodarg, ZZ (Andorra), ZZ (Georgia).
N.B. The names of those present at the meeting are printed in italics
Head of secretariat: Mr Grayson
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Ary, Mrs Theophilova-Permaul
1 To understand the context it is necessary to refer to the SEC Res. 1244 of June 1999, where a final status for the Serb ‘Province’ of Kosovo has not been defined.