Multicultural Project Planning
The Russian war with Chechnya forced thousands of refugees into camps. When families were displaced, they attempted maintaining their culture, education, and traditions important to them. Creating schools is a major way to motivate, encourage hope, and stability while forced into the seclusion of refugee camps. Many children in camps want to continue an education. However, fear prevents them from returning home and many refugee children attempt to educate themselves (Wide Angle, 2002).
The primary means of survival for refugee camps is based on worldwide humanitarian aid. The aid varies with shelters, food, clothing, essentials, and books for continued education. As Director of Humanitarian Aid covering Region 3, I am assigned to implement schools in Chechen refugee camps of Chechnya. This paper addresses the challenges in planning the project, three topics to better understand prior to beginning the project, a description of ethnocentric challenges in the planning phase, and presents questions a researcher should investigate.
Challenges of Planning the Project
There are many challenges in successfully designing and setting up an educational program in a refugee camp. Some of the challenges are in developing a Plan of Action. This includes defining the schools’ goals and values, a timeframe for implementation and the school year, number of classes and students, and accessibility to teachers and volunteers with responsibilities. In addition, other challenges are to develop multiple curriculums, establish budgets, determine site location(s) and maintenance required, equipment need, school supplies and meals. Also, there are challenges in the availability of resources, how to work with children of varying age and education levels, parental attitudes, understanding the community dynamics, language barriers, and maintaining cultural customs and value systems within the camps (Idol, 1988).
Before starting an education program, a needs analysis is required to determine the refugee camps’ needs to gather relevant information used to define the program (Idol, 1988). The challenge is to obtain data which should provide statistics of the area on the number of out-of-school children, age ranges, past education levels, home situations, languages, environmental factors and other pertinent information available. Efforts are needed to normalize children through classroom routines, appropriate instructors, and a presence of stability and permanence, as close to their prior schooling as possible.
Since the purpose of the program is for Chechens to return to their homes to be productive, education is imperative to their preparation. Refugees, like Rajap, from the Chechen camp, has hopes and dreams of getting an education and one day returning home (Wide Angle, 2002). Though the process of setting up education programming in refugee camps is challenging, it can be very rewarding and used as a model of success elsewhere. As a result, there are three topics required to provide my office better understanding and additional clarity before moving forward with this assignment.
Topics to Better Understand Prior to Beginning the Project
Before setting up an educational program, schools in the Chechen refugee campsite, resources must be defined and understood for the funding stream to support the needs analysis in this initiative. Additional resources required towards this project are the current environment and availability/number of school site locations, funding stream, accessibility to educational materials and instructors (salaried and volunteers), information on previous educational structure, and methods to provide a secure and stable environment while in school (Betancourt, 2006).
It is important to understand the educational materials and delivery methodology needed in the refugee camps. The schools require reliable, consistent curriculums, and long-term funding for teachers, counselors, school supplies, and meals. The levels of education needed to cover the number of students in camps is unknown. Therefore, the various levels need to be defined to understand the differentiation between classroom instruction and age ranges within Chechen’s camps. According to Burnaby Now (2006), “About 17% of refugees are between five and under, another 17% range from six to 12, and 12% are 13 to 18, (p. 2). Furthermore, an understanding is needed for their previous education, current language barriers, and cultures to address present challenges. This information will also provide data on their interests and needs to enable them to develop into positive and engaging young people. Adults may need more education should also be considered. Often, many refugees are unable to return to their previous positions or find adequate employment in their native countries. These refugees require retraining to provide new skills for employment (Burnaby Now, 2006).
When developing a Plan of Action, there are often additional supports which are equally important. Some of the additional supports are within the camps’ community and nearby towns, mental health issues and environmental concerns. It is important to have community and parents’ support to encourage a successful program. To gain support, meetings are needed to introduce plans of the schools and to discuss concerns or problems the refugees may have. The meetings will encourage everyone to exchange ideas, partake in education decisions, and to incorporate community values and culture into the programs (Kirk & Cassity 2007).
Some additional agencies could plan an important role to assist with developing schools in the Chechen refugee camps. Agencies like the International Rescue Committee, CARE, and Save the Children support emergency education programs for children (Kirk & Cassity, 2007). Another agency is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which provides political and physical protection for refugees. In addition, they contribute to humanitarian assistance to aid with food, shelter, water and educational services (Kirk & Cassity, 2007).
Refugee camps have several ethnocentric challenges that need to be immediately addressed. Due to Russia’s years of war and civil unrest, the people of Chechen have been stripped of their native language and cultural identity. According to DeWaal (2002), “Fighting has resulted in Chechens being coerced into refugee camps, while holding onto their cultures, traditions and customs” (p. 1.). To gain trust and to establish relationships, it is important to communicate in the same language to determine desired educational programs and languages taught in the schools. Also, relationships may be damaged, if cultures are not understood and people can easily be offended. Chechen people are known to be very ethnocentric. Therefore, an ethnocentric challenge facing this program is the attitudes of the Russians as attempts are made to assist the Chechen people. Other factors that should be a concern are health and well-being of the refugees. It is also important to understand the psychological aspects of the children who may have experienced trauma in this tragic relocation (DeWaal, 2002).
Questions Researchers Should Ask
A researcher should ask many questions relating to the implementation of schools in their refugee camps. Some of the questions below can be used as a starting point to address concerns.
1. What do the refugees identify as their needs?
2. What is their history with the Russians; have, or their family experience any trauma?
3. What are their intentions when they return home?
4. What are their expectations from the project, the school, and staff?
5. How can trust between educations, and students be established?
6. What are the interests of their children they want them to learn?
7. How can we work together on their behalf with trauma and mental health issues?
8. What would they like to see occur in the future?
9. How can we successfully address unforeseen ethnocentric challenges?
The disruption of education for children in refugee camps is one of the worst consequences displaced families face in times of war. The role of a school in a child’s life is more than just attending an educational institution. Children need a focus and a daily routine to stabilize their lives, mentally stimulate them and challenge them intellectually in a safe and secure environment. Education is based on their interests and needs so they can develop as children into productive adults.
There were three areas identified as essential to understanding the project’s needs prior to implementing an educational program in Chechen’s refugee camps. The areas identified are resources, educational needs, and additional supports. In addition, description of ethnocentric challenges in the planning phases of implementing school services were defined and questions presented that researchers should ask were listed. By engaging key community leaders, maintaining open communications, and understanding the importance of culture and ethnocentric challenges, the school project at Chechnya Chechen’s refugee camps will be highly successful.
Multicultural Project Planning