Future Learning Space · Refugee crisis · Right to Education

Choosing hope

This excerpt is taken from a Research Report on the Education of Syrian Refugee children – by Shelly Culbertson and Louay Constant.  You can find the report here: RAND Research Report: The Education of Syrian Refugee Children

What caught my eye was the list of Recommendations.


Can you just for a minute, imagine if you were the person whose desk this was dropped onto- if you are the person in the position of problem-solving this – what looks like insurmountable crisis- and THIS list is essentially your ToDo list? Where would you even start? If this were an ER Department in a hospital, how could you triage this list?  What would be the priorities that actually take priority over all the other priorities?!

It truly makes one feel overwhelmed, and begin to be enveloped by a sense of hopelessness. Just HOW can all of this be solved, be managed?

But in the words of the late Christopher Reeve, “Once you choose Hope anything is possible.

That’s where aid groups, humanitarian organisations, charities, and volunteers made up of everyday people wanting to help out however they can, come in.  When something as big – as EPIC- as dire as this is happening, it will take all acts of support, assistance and  care – however big or small – from a great many to snowball a movement of collaborative support and crisis care. And the one thing common to all involved, is they are choosing Hope.



Future Learning Space · Mission Statement · Refugee crisis · TWB · Vision

Mission & Vision Statement

My Mission Statement for my Future Learning Space is a task, that initially, when reading through what was required, I thought how on earth am I going to come up with something half intelligible…..but then I started researching. And reading. And viewing. And seeing. And at the risk of sounding cliched, and scripted – I started feeling heartbroken at what these refugee children are enduring. The terror. The confusion. The loss. The grief. The feeling that the world has turned its collective backs on them. And so writing my Mission Statement suddenly became a no-brainer. What drives me in this task, is simply, to help. The Refugee Crisis of our world in 2016 is staggering beyond belief in terms of statistics.


More than half of the world’s refugees are children. This crisis is heartbreaking in terms of its impact on human lives.  Do you know that the estimated average length of time for refugees to be displaced from their homes, from their countries is now 17 years? 17 YEARS. That’s a childhood.

The fact that education of millions of refugee children is an unfortunate casuality in this most despairing of situations, is reason enough for those of us who are educators, to be proactive in whatever way possible in giving these children safe access, inclusive access, to education and to learning.

My Mission Statement  is to craft and create a Future learning space which serves to address the needs of refugee children, incorporating the Teachers Without Borders initiative, Child-Friendly Spaces.  TWB’s mantra is connecting teachers to information and to each other in order to bring about social change.  In the spirit of this mantra, I hope to enact change, awareness, even a change in perspective if necessary – for those of us looking upon this crisis, by researching, exploring and investigating platforms for this change.

My Vision Statement, as I previously shared on an earlier post, draws on my understanding and knowledge of the 6 Learning Spaces- and is to create a learning space that addresses the needs of refugee children to have an outlet for their creative expression, an outlet for expressing that which words simply cannot.  By drawing on the fundamentals of the Personal learning space, and Collaborative Space  to operate within the parameters of a Child-Friendly Space (TWB initiative) students  have the opportunity to participate in  Art Therapy activities that incorporate and engage in key learning areas.  I hope to help students re-ignite their learning journeys, their curiosity and passion for learning, and safely explore and express their inner-most thoughts and feelings, and hopefully set on a path to healing and resilience. Focus for this Future Learning Space is with the Akre Camp (known as the Akre Castle) in Duhok, Iraq.

Future Learning Space · Right to Education · Uncategorized

Permanent Impermanence

The above image is of the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

Its “residents” – are permanent impermanents.  I heard that term recently, and wish I could give credit to its creator, but I don’t know who originally coined the term. Its inference is clinical, and seemingly, without feeling, but it so effectively captures the liminality – I would say chronic liminality in fact – that these refugees are suspended in.

In emergency and conflict-affected settings, such as Za’atari, what are the fundamentals of learning?  Here, in this space, individuals have been stripped bare of everything they have known and held dear, commencing with their citizen status first and foremost.  Once their immediate basic needs have been met, how is their “Right to Education” recognised and validated?  What is the absolute, Top-of-the-List priorities for agencies like UNESCO, Save the Children and World Vision in the educational context?

For the people at grass-roots level, offering support and care for refugees – the fundamental educational goal, according to UNESCO, is to increase educational opportunities for those affected – children and adults alike – and to devise, incorporate and implement innovative solutions to the delivery of education in these settings.  The one thing all agencies currently appear to be championing is the use and integration of, and providing opportunites for, mLearning. That is, Mobile Learning.

According to UNESCO, mLearning is the ability to access/provide educational material on personal mobile devices (eg. Smartphones, tablets) and is generally self-paced, and readily accessible – round the clock, and from almost any location.  E-Learning is the dispersing of educational knowledge and content over the Internet, and can be either via synchronous or asynchronous learning.  If you like, e-Learning is the WHAT, and mLearning is the HOW.

How Mobile Phones are helping to take education to hard to reach children

The application of ICT in providing opportunities for educating refugees, helps improve accessibility to, quality and management of education in refugee settings.  Using mLearning and e-Learning with innovative solutions to education on the move is helping address refugees’ Right to Education.

The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King

6 Learning Spaces · Future Learning Space · Uncategorized

When words fail

Thinking about my final piece of assessment for one of my units in my degree upgrade this semester – designing a learning space for refugee children in a current refugee facility.

I have spent many, many hours researching, reading, and watching, viewing images and videos of refugee camps, and the children who occupy them. It is hard not to feel….well- it’s hard not to feel, full stop. It has been difficult to bring into focus my thoughts and ideas for the learning space I want to develop, as I keep holding my head in my hands saying Good God, Where Do I Even START??!!

Watch Clouds over Sidra

With all the needs and priorities the people in these camps have, my task is to look at the children,  their needs and their right to receive an education, and base my development of a learning space on that – all the while being ever mindful of the trauma they have suffered, and quite possibly, continue to suffer, and their absolute need for both healing, and learning.

My focus for the Future Learning Space is on using Art Therapy for children in the Calais Jungle Refugee Camp. However, with recent news just this last week, that the facility is to be dismantled (what an awful term) in the very near future, a learning space in “no set space” is quite challenging.

My idea is to develop a safe learning space – drawing on, and utilising the principals of some of the 6 Learning Spaces I have developed knowledge and understanding of during this Unit – a space where children can explore, express and nurture their innate creativity and intrinsic empathy.

In an environment of uncertainty, despair and displacement I believe it is crucial for children to be given the opportunity to create and develop artistic expression – at a time when many of them may find that words fail to express what is going on in their minds. Evidence of  the power of Art Therapy can be see in this video by the Art Therapy Institute.


Providing refugee children with the necessary materials, and safe physical space for them to engage in expressing their deepest thoughts, is something I hope to explore further, and, in some way, hopefully initiate thinking, conversation and actions in other educators. This emotive, and powerful account of one Syrian man’s desire to help the kids in his refugee camp, through creative therapies demonstrates just how essential it is for children living with trauma to have opportunities for expression through art. Its confronting, yet compelling, and had me in tears, and hit by a wall of different emotions.

Saving Syria’s Refugee Children

Using Art Therapy in my Future Learning Space is just one component. Incorporating this with Teachers Without Borders, and one of their initiatives – Child-Friendly Spaces- is the crux of my FLS.  Teachers Without Borders (TWB from now on) is an international non-profit organisation, which serves to connect teachers worldwide to each other,  to information, and to enact change by providing support to communities in need of developing, and/or reinstating education.


Child-Friendly Spaces need to be able to be established quickly, and are there to offer support, care and protection of children in emergency settings and areas of conflict.  They are spaces that build positivity, avoid causing harm, are highly inclusive and non-discriminatory.  They are stimulating, participatory and secure and supportive. (Based on Guidelines for Child-Friendly-Spaces-in-Emergencies, retrieved from: https://www.scribd.com/document/269780134/Guidelines-for-Child-Friendly-Spaces#download

My Future Learning Space will draw upon TWB, UNESCO, World Vision, Art Therapy research and current practices, Resources including articles, videos and links, and incorporate a number or the 6 Learning Spaces I have discussed in this PLN in earlier posts.  At this point I have no idea where this journey will take me, or whether I will hit dead ends, or find cracks to slip through and find surprising new pathways.  Watch this space!