Learning from disrupted learners: A new anthology from the Refugee Education Council

Mar 31, 2022
Written by Justine Abigail Yu, editor of Learning from Disrupted Learners and founder of Living Hyphen

On March 30, 2022, the Refugee Education Council launched Learning from Disrupted Learners, an anthology of stories and reflections from refugee and displaced youth.

You can read the anthology and a manifesto outlining the council's Vision for the Education of Refugee and Displaced Learners.

Anthology: English, French, Spanish
Manifesto: EnglishFrenchSpanish

I joined the Refugee Education Council because I firmly believe that young refugees should be involved in solution-designing discussions about issues that affect them. After all, there can never be an effective solution without involving the communities that have been affected.Nhial Deng

Istarlin Abdi. Qais Abdulrazzaq. Bikienga Amdiatou. Laura Barbosa. Malual Bol Kiir. Nhial Deng. Amelie Fabian. Foni Joyce Vuni. Christine Mwongera. Nabaloum Pascaline. Anojitha Sivaskaran.

These are the names of the young leaders from around the world who have personally experienced the challenges of forcible displacement and who have come together to lead the Refugee Education Council. Together, they are working to create a more equitable, inclusive, and just global educational system that takes into consideration the unique needs of refugees and internally displaced youth.
Hosted by World Vision Canada in partnership with the Canadian International Education Policy Working Group (CIEPWG), the Refugee Education Council was created to advise the Government of Canada's Together for Learning campaign – an international campaign to ensure that all refugee and displaced children have access to the education they need and deserve, and that is a part of their fundamental human rights. The creation of this council marks a remarkable shift in finding the solutions to the growing gaps in global education as refugee and internally displaced youth voices have historically been excluded from the conversation.
But no more.
Made up of youth, teachers, parents, and community leaders with experience in forcible displacement, the council is fiercely advocating that solutions and approaches are shaped by their own lived experience and knowledge. According to their powerful manifesto:
“We believe in a world where all children have access to quality education and lifelong learning. This vision is underpinned by our five core themes of inclusion, mental health and psychosocial support, digital learning, gender equality, and accountability.”
Recognizing the significance of their own lived experiences, these youth have created Learning from Disrupted Learners, a collection of their stories to amplify their manifesto and vision for the future. We are humbled and honoured to share this powerful collection of stories with you today.
The stories found in the pages of Learning from Disrupted Learners offer an intimate look into the experiences, emotions, hardships, and triumphs of young refugee leaders from around the globe. Their many nuanced stories provide a painful glimpse into the extreme challenges they must face and overcome as youth who have been displaced due to conflict, persecution, violence, natural disaster, or some other life-altering crisis.
Above all else, the stories shared in Learning from Disrupted Learners are a testament to the fact that these youth hold the keys to solving the most pressing issues that so deeply affect their lives. 

Moving beyond glorifying resiliency

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 84 million children, adolescents, and adults were forcibly displaced worldwide in 2021.1 This means that there are now more refugee people in the world than ever before in history.
The trauma that these people experience on a daily basis cannot be overstated. They are often separated from their loved ones, fleeing violence and destruction to find new homes that provide a modicum of safety. They face immense challenges accessing basic human rights, experience stigma and discrimination in their host communities, and, for many children and youth, are robbed of an education that is so critical to establishing a dignified future. These struggles have only been exacerbated over the last couple of years due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Knowing all this, it is easy then to celebrate the members of the Refugee Education Council as resilient. They are, of course. There is no question about that. They have not only survived to overcome conflict, persecution, violence, and/or natural disasters from their home countries. They have also gone on to become educators, activists, and community leaders on both the community and global level.
But to speak only of their resilience would be to ignore and erase the conditions that have forced and continue to force these youth to be resilient. To speak only of their resilience would be to hide the ongoing failures of governments, non-governmental organizations, and other institutions to provide the support, care, and basic human rights of which they are entitled.
We have created a world that has come to accept resilience from the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations and used that resilience as permission to continue failing to provide the necessary solutions to bring about an equitable, inclusive, and just world.
The Refugee Education Council’s Learning from Disrupted Learners is a collection of important stories that serve as a fierce and resounding call to action. As the members themselves declare,
We call upon donor governments, education ministers, multilateral and non-governmental organizations, private sector partners, and everyday citizens to do their part to prioritize the education of refugee and displaced girls and boys.”

An invitation and a challenge to learn from disrupted learners

“Refugee education is vital not only to build skills and confidence among displaced persons, but to promote successful independence and integration in host communities,” writes the Refugee Education Council. “However, the voices of those who are most impacted by global education decisions have been historically excluded. We hope that this [anthology] will amplify the demands of Canada’s Refugee Education Council members in order to strengthen the global commitments to addressing the growing displacement crisis.”
It is no longer acceptable to prioritize top-down solutions. In fact, such solutions have never been efficient or effective in solving our world’s most pressing social issues. We must listen and learn from the communities and people who are directly impacted by the issues we aim to solve. By listening to learning from those who have directly experienced forcible displacement, we will be better able to respond to the crisis of education in emergencies.
Together, members of the Refugee Education Council are working boldly to inform the Government of Canada’s commitment to global education, co-create solutions, and ensure that the education of refugee and displaced persons, especially girls, remains a top priority for citizens and decision-makers globally. Their manifesto already lays the blueprint forward for all of us in working towards inclusion, mental health and psychosocial support, digital learning, gender equality, and accountability.
Refugee and internally displaced youth are the experts of their lived experiences. And they are also the experts in how to create a more equitable, inclusive, and just future.
The time to act is now.

There are many other young people leading solutions in their community and it's important to provide spaces where they can share their experiences and expertise. This means listening to them, trusting them, and supporting them to develop their skills and capacity in advocacy.” – Foni Joyce