Implications of Pre and Post Migration and Education Experiences of Refugee Children

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Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: May 5, 2019

Ambei Moses Chu & Mary-Ann Awasiri Takwe
Educational Administration, Curriculum Studies and Teaching, University of Buea
South West Region, Cameroon

Journal Full Text PDF: Implications of Pre and Post Migration and Education Experiences of Refugee Children (A Case in the East Region of Cameroon).

Education is vital and recognized as a universal human right yet more than 70% of refugee children in the East Region of Cameroon do not effectively school.This study investigated the pre and post migration and education experiences of refugee children in the East Region of Cameroon . Two hundred and eleven refugee children, two head teachers, seven teachers, ten parents, one regional delegate, two workers of UNHCR,two workers of the Red Cross and two community leaders participated in the study. Both qualitative and quantitative designs were used Questionnaire, school and classroom observations and individual interviews were used to collect data. Results revealed that academic challenges like absenteeism(79.9%),fast methods of teaching (58.8%),lack of academic/parental support at home (33.5%),economic barriers like low socio-economic status of parents (35.5%),hunger and starvation (36.7%),socio-cultural barriers (7.7%),and psychological barriers(14.0%), have a negative effect on effective schooling thereby leading to high dropout rate informal schooling ,provisional of educational needs, modification of curriculum and pedagogic practices, additional/specialized programming ,modeling/mentoring by nationals and resident refugees, community participation and a favorable school climate were proposed strategies to overcome these barriers. Collaborative efforts of policy makers, administrators, teachers and service providers to ensure access, quality, equity and relevance in education for refugees were recommended.

Keywords: Migration, Refugees & Barriers.

Since 2006, there has been an unprecedented increase in the influx of refugees from neighboring countries like Chad, Nigeria and Central Africa Republic (CAR) to Cameroon (Press T.V February 2014). Following this reports, as of March 2013, 44.252 refugees from CAR sought refuge in Cameroon and of recent, Cameroon Calling News of 22nd Dec. 2013 mentioned that 5.3000 refugees entered Cameroon from CAR with approximately half being children. Most of this war displaced and refugee children stay in boarder towns like Garoua-Boulai, Kenzou and Yokadouma in the East and Ngawoui, Yamba and Gbatoua-Godoli in the neighboring Adamawa Region.
These refugees are at high social risk and as a result, lose social stability and access to education through many of their experiences (Boydem et al., 2002; Tolleyson, 1989). Consequently, these children may suffer from inability to life long learning, growing unemployment and social alienation there by reducing economic and social opportunities available to them in their country and the host country.
The increase in the number of refugees in Cameroon has generally not been accompanied by appropriate education and other specialized support specifically targeted to assist these refugees from disrupted schooling background and ethnic diversities. As education is vital for refugee children’s social adjustment, the 1951 convention relating to the status of the refugee affirms in Art.22 the responsibility of the government of the country of asylum to provide education for refugees. Further, the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Executive Committee in 1992 asked that “the basic primary education needs of refugee children be provided and that even in the early stages of education, requirements should be identified so that prompt attention may be given to such needs, (Conclusions and decisions 31 (d) 1992).
As a prelude therefore to the management of educational problems, this study identifies the pre and post migration and education experiences prevalent among refugee children and the barriers to effective schooling as well as makes suggestions to improve upon academic performance and greater chances of schooling.

1.1 Statement of the problem
The East Region of Cameroon for the past 10 years has experienced growth in the number of refugees from CAR., with more than half of them being children of school going age. These children have traumatic experience that can cause them to experience greater difficulties adjusting to and integrating into new society and may be slow in learning academic concepts, skills and new language (Praire Center of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration (PCELL) and population Research Laboratory, 2001; Mac Kay & Tavares, 2005).
The UNHCR (2002) stated that education is not only a fundamental human right but also an essential component of refugee children rehabilitation. Despite this, the refugees in East Cameroon are at high risk because their presence has not been accompanied by policies to improve educational outcomes and enhance emotional well being for young people from war-affected backgrounds. Educators and those who work in the school environment are considered key elements in facilitating socialization and acculturation of immigrants (Hones & Cha, 1999; Trueba, Jacobs, and Kirton, 1990).
Unfortunately, because of refugees’ distinct cultural and social background accompanied by disrupted schooling, refugee children/ families find it difficult to interact with those who work in the school system (head teachers, teachers, support staff, parents) in Cameroon. Likewise, classroom teachers are challenged by the task of providing educational intervention for diverse refugees. As a consequence, when teachers do not understand the needs, difficulties and experiences of these children, they frequently have different expectation. Such expectations and misinterpretations of these children lead to low academic performance, tracking, Stereotyping and labeling (Manning, 2009). The result is inability to life long learning as well as high dropout rates, growing unemployment and social alienation. This study is therefore an investigation into the Barriers to effective schooling for refugees in the East Region of Cameroon.

1.3 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to investigate the barriers to effective schooling for refugee children who are settled in the East Region of Cameroon, in order to gain an understanding of their unique pre and post migration and education experiences, their barriers to effective schooling and the interventions that are promising for overcoming the barriers faced.

1.4 General Objective
To investigate the pre and post migration and education experiences of refugee children in the East Region Cameroon, barriers to effective schooling for refugee children, and propose strategies to overcome these barriers.

1.5 Specific Objective
To investigate the pre and post migration and education experiences of Refugees

1.6 Research Question
What are the pre and post migration and education experiences of refugee children in the East Region of Cameroon?

1.7 Research Hypothesis
Ha –Refugee children’s pre and post migration and education experience has an effect on effective schooling.
Ho – Refugee children’s pre and post migration and education experience does not have an effect on effective schooling.

1.8 Significance of the study
This study identifies the Pre and Post migration and educational experiences of refugee children in the East Region of Cameroon, their barriers to effective schooling, and creates awareness to policy makers, school administrators, teachers and other service providers on what could be done to facilitate the acculturation, social integration and effective schooling for refugees in the Eastern Region of Cameroon. It is also hoped that the study provides a framework for refugee educational problems and other mechanisms to cope with.

1.9 Scope/ Delimitation of the Study
1.9.1 Geographical Scope
This study is carried out in the East Region of Cameroon. Bertoua which is the Headquarters of the region .Bertoua is located between latitude 4o28’ and 4o4o’ north of the equator. It extends to Mandjou which is a Sub Division in the East Region and Bindia which is a village in Mandjou Sub-Division. The Map below (figure 2a) shows the areas in Cameroon where refugees are found and figure 2b shows the location of the study area.

The deterioration of security in Central Africa Republic, Chad, Nigeria, and Africans fleeing persecution during political instability represent traditional refugees to Cameroon. The last 10 years have witnessed a rapid growth in the number of refugees resident in Cameroon. The US Committee for Refugees and Immigration in its World Refugee Survey 2009: Cameroon reports that Cameroon hosted about 91.900 refugee and asylum seekers including about 65.200, from Central Africa Republic (CAR), 20.000 from Chad, 3.000 from Nigeria and several thousands more from Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo Kinshasa), Burundi, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia, among others (U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, 2009).
Furthermore, following that same report, in February 2008, at least 37.000 people crossed a river into the border town of Kousseri to escape fighting in Chadian capital of N’Djamena. Mukete (2009) reports that as of 31 Dec. 2009, the exact number of refugees in Cameroon was unknown. According to census carried out by UN Refugee Agency between January and March 2008, Cameroon hosted a total of 97.400 Refugees and asylum seekers within the last quarter of 2007 and early 2008.This included 49.000 from CAR, 41.000 from Chad, and several others from Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast. Most of these refugees live in urban centers like Yaoundé, Douala, Bertoua, Ngoundere, kousseri and Garoua.
Looking at the refugee laws and their right to education, Cameroon is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugee. This convention affirms in Art. 22 the responsibility of the government of the country of asylum to provide education for refugees. The fact remains that many of these refugees with disrupted schooling background do not receive basic education in Cameroon. Though the UNHCR Executive Committee in 1992 asked that basic primary education needs for refugee children be provided, and even in the early stage of emergencies, their requirements be identified so that prompt attention may be given to such needs (conclusion and decision 31(d) 1992), Cameroon does not fully implement this decision. Attending school provides continuity for children and contributes enormously to their well being. For this reason education for refugee is a priority in terms of protection and assistance activities yet it is viewed as a luxury to refugees in Cameroon.
Following UNICEF reports of 2002, most of the traditional refugees to the Eastern part of Cameroon were hosted by the local community who shared all their basic resources with them together with educational resources. There were no refugee camps in 2002, but there was peaceful co-existence between Cameroonians and Central Africans, who were fleeing kidnappings and killings by armed groups and bandits in CAR. The refugees – primarily from the Mbororo ethnic group, which spans the region – are nomadic pastoralists and have a long history of shepherding their cattle across the Cameroon-CAR border. Their familiarity with the terrain and the local villages made relatively easy integration, as most of the refugees began living alongside Cameroonians from the early years of 2004. Moving away from the traditional pattern has also meant adjusting to village life for refugee families including schooling for Mbororo children. Before 2008, the host community welcomed them despite their cultural differences since they were few. By 2008 the school attendance in the East Region of Cameroon doubled filling already crowded classes with children from refugee families. Despite this increase, about two thirds of the 28,000 refugee children were not still in school (Gilliam, 2009).Reasons can be attributed to social, political and economic factors. “They were about 150 students before,” explained the Director of the Manju Primary School in East Cameroon, Gilbert Nouab. “Now there are more than 300.” Mr. Nouab said there are many more children who would like to attend school, but there is no infrastructure to support them: “We simply don’t have the buildings” (Gilliam, 2009).
The International Federation of the Red Cross is offering to help pay the school fees of children whose families are unable to do so, but if all the children were to come to school, there would be no place for them. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and UNICEF has contributed to infrastructure where possible, yet resources remain insufficient (Gilliam, 2009). This clearly indicates that effective schooling for refugees in Cameroon over the past years has been a night mare.
Since 2013, many more refugees have sought refuge in East Cameroon and the host community can not support them socially, economically, and educationally as before. Also, due to several months of disrupted schooling, most of them have low level of education and skills coupled with limited resources provided by the host country. Even those who are schooling in Cameroon have several challenges to cope with at the beginning of their studies. They actually lack appropriate and sufficient support programs targeted towards them, consequently the quality of education they receive may be poor, number of study hours limited, there by affecting effective schooling which May have long term implications to society like ; drop out, teenage pregnancy, increase crime rate, prostitution among others.

2.1 Acculturation Theory (Segmented Assimilation)
Berry, Pootinga, Segall, and Dasen (2003) define acculturation as a change in an individual or a culturally similar group that results from contact with a different culture; they make a distinction between psychological and sociological acculturation. At the psychological/individual level, changes can occur in one’s sense of identity, values, and beliefs; people may experience acculturation stress such as anxiety and depression as they try to adapt to a new culture. At a group level, changes affect social structures economic factors and political activities. In line with this Stein (1979) proposed that occupational and economic adjustment is crucial to adult refugee’ acculturation in a new country, as much educational success is essential for refugee students acculturation. The sociology of immigration recognizes that outcomes for immigrant minorities (including refugee immigrants) are significantly influenced by what Portes and Rumbaut (1990) call a group’s mode of incorporation, that is, the context in which immigrants enter, plays a decisive role in their process of adaptation, regardless of the human capital the immigrants may possess. Thus immigrants who receive settlement assistance and are not subject to widespread discrimination are expected to experience a smoother process of social and psychological integration and faster economic progress.
Portes and Zhou’s (1993) identified three possible patterns of adaptation, into a new society: (a) the straight line theory of upward mobility in which newcomers assimilate into the middle-class majority; (b) upward mobility and ethnic solidarity found in successful ethnic enclaves that have established themselves through government and social policies; and (c) a third unsuccessful pattern consisting of a downward spiral resulting in assimilation into poverty, often in an inner city underclass. Portes and Zhou noted that refugees arriving since the 1980s are less likely to blend than their predecessors because of their racial and ethnic origins. Without significant social and economic support, recent refugee children and youth are especially vulnerable to this unsuccessful pattern of acculturation and students whose needs are not being met by the school system, drop out of school or are pushed out of school. This pattern is referred to by Portes and Zhou as the downward spiral, which needed to be more fully investigated, and subsequently eliminated in this generation of refugees. Extending their earlier work, Portes and Rumbaut (2001) posited three contextual factors on which segmented assimilation patterns are dependent: (a) the pace at which children and parents acculturate, (b) cultural and economic barriers confronted by immigrant youth, and (c) resources (family and community) available to manage the barriers. This theory was used as a starting point for the analysis of the factors that contribute to the three patterns of adaptation into Cameroonian school systems by refugees.