Multicultural Project Planning
The Russian war with Chechnya forced thousands of refugees into camps. When families were displaced, they attempted maintaining their culture, traditions and education which were important to them. Developing schools is a major way to motivate, encourage hope, and stabilize the refugees when they were forced into the seclusion of refugee camps. Many children in camps want to continue an education. However, they fear returning home and countless refugee children attempt to educate themselves (Wide Angle, 2002).
The primary methods in survival of refugee camps is focused on assistance from humanitarian aid organizations. The aid provides support from different areas such as needs 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 what to include in the development of Plan of Action. The plan consists of defining the schools’ mission, values, a timeframe for implementation, number of classes and students, and accessibility to teachers and volunteers with identified responsibilities. In addition, other challenges are to develop multiple curriculums, establish budgets, determine site location(s) of the schools, equipment needed, school supplies and daily meals for the children. Also, there are challenges in the availability of resources, how to work with children of varying ages and education levels, dealing with parental attitudes, understanding the dynamics of the community, the complexity of language barriers, and the need to maintain 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 gather pertinent statistical data from the area of children not in school, their age ranges, past education levels, current home situations and conditions, languages spoken, and other pertinent information located. Efforts are needed to normalize children in consistent classroom routines, appropriate instructors, and a presence of stability which they received before the refugee camps.
The purpose of the program is to return Chechens home as productive individuals; therefore, 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). Although the process of setting up educational programming in refugee camps is challenging, it can be 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 is information on the current environment and the number of school site locations needed, amount of funding streams, and accessibility to educational materials and instructors (salaried and volunteers). Also, information is needed on previous educational structures, and methods to provide a secure and stable environment while in school (Betancourt, 2006).
It is important to understand what educational materials are needed and their delivery methodology in the refugee camps. The schools require reliable, consistent curriculums, and funding for teachers, counselors, school supplies, and daily meals. Information is needed on the levels of education for each classroom to provide appropriate instruction to the children. Therefore, the various education levels need to be defined to understand the differentiation between classroom instruction and age ranges within the 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, additional understanding is needed to address their previous education, current language barriers, and cultures to reduce presented challenges. This information will provide data on their interests and needs to develop positive and engaging young people. Adults may possibly 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 adult 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 needed are in the camps’ community and surrounding areas, issues with mental health and concerns with their environmental. It is important to have the backing of community and parents to encourage a successful program. To gain support, meetings are needed to introduce plans of the schools and to discuss problems the refugees may have. The meetings will also encourage everyone to exchange ideas, partake in educational decisions, and to incorporate community values and culture into the programs (Kirk ; Cassity 2007).
Additional agencies could assume important roles 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 could provide 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, the Chechen people have been stripped of their native language and denied cultural traditions. 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 language of the people 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 (DeWaal, 2002). Therefore, an ethnocentric challenge facing this program is the attitudes of the Russians when trying 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 children who may have experienced mental 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 to their native homes?
4. What are their expectations of the school project and staff?
5. How can we establish trust between teachers and students?
6. What do they want their children to learn and what are their interests?
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 known and unforeseen ethnocentric challenges?
The interruption of the children’s education 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.