Refugee Education: The Crossroads of Globalization
In this article, I probe a question at the core of comparative education – how to realize the right to education for all and ensure opportunities to use that education for future participation in society. I do so thorough examination of refugee education from World War II to the present, including analysis of an original dataset of documents (n=214) and semi-structured interviews (n=208).
I collected archival data at the Library and Archives of the United Nations Office of Geneva, the Archives of UNHCR, and within the Education Unit at UNHCR. I gathered into one data set education reports, strategies, policies, and internal documents from 1951 to the present (n = 214). The second data source is original, in-depth, and semistructured interviews with key informants, including UNHCR staff and partners, such as Ministry of Education officials, nongovernmental organization (NGO) staff, other United Nations agency staff, refugee community leaders, and teachers of refugees. I conducted these interviews (n = 86) during field-based data collection between October 2002 and April 2015 at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and, together with my students, in Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. We conducted additional interviews (n = 122) via phone and Skype between November 2010 and April 2015 with key informants in Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen.
The data illuminate how refugee children are caught between the global promise of universal human rights, the definition of citizenship rights within nation-states, and the realization of these sets of rights in everyday practices. Conceptually, I demonstrate the misalignment between normative aspirations, codes and doctrines, and mechanisms of enforcement within nation-states, which curtail refugees' abilities to activate their rights to education, to work, and to participate in society.