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Context

Education, well-being, and a sense of belonging are essential to all children’s development. Child refugees and asylum seekers are no exception. For them, there is even more at stake – namely their successful integration in their new homelands and communities.

REFUGE-ED brings together two fields of expertise: education and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in humanitarian settings to improve academic achievement and the dynamic integration of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking children.

In close collaboration with children and families, communities, civil society organisations, local service providers, schools, and teaching staff – including school counsellors or other focal points focusing on MHPSS needs in the educational arena – and policymakers, the project will develop a catalogue of educational practises that can be scaled and adapted to fit specific contexts and needs.

The largest child refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War

Since 2015 more than a million people have arrived in Europe seeking refuge and asylum from across the Mediterranean Sea, and the number increase year by year.

In 2018 Greece, Italy and Spain alone were host to more than 50,000 unaccompanied or separated children, according to UNICEF. And the numbers are not decreasing.

Against this background, both UNICEF and the EU have declared that we are going through the largest child refugee and refugee crisis since the Second World War.

The large number of child refugees represents great challenges to the EU member states’ education sectors, and social and mental health services.

Exposure to violence and displacement are the strongest risk factors for mental health conditions among child and adolescent refugees. This can have devastating consequences for psychosocial development, social inclusion and educational opportunities.

Many children impacted by conflict do not have access to the protective environment of learning spaces that can restore a sense of normality. They need quality education that provides social support through positive dialogic interactions with peers and educators based on what we already know works.

To create safe, quality learning environments that are responsive to the mental health and psychosocial needs of children education systems must employ successful educational actions that teach social and emotional learning competencies and promote and protect wellbeing considering all the community.

Unless educational and mental health and psychosocial support interventions are provided for children with a migratory background and especially asylum seeking and unaccompanied minors, it will be unlikely for the future of Europe to advance towards a fully inclusive, democratic, and sustainable society, a constitutive pillar of the European political project.

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Challenge

Thousands of migrant, asylum seeker and refugee children in Europe do not receive high quality, inclusive education. This has devastating effects on their academic success, psychosocial development, wellbeing, and chance of successful dynamic integration.

Some of the children have experienced great adversity before, during and after their journey to Europe. This can result in poor mental health, which makes learning more difficult. Some children are not enrolled in formal education because they are in transition or in a legal limbo, others do not receive education appropriate to their needs.

Schools and civil society organisations offer formal, non-formal, and informal educations to migrant, refugee and asylum seeker children. They face multiple challenges supporting the children’s learning and social inclusion.

In the REFUGE-ED project the consortium will draw on its expertise in the fields of education and mental health and psychosocial support to implement successful educational actions.

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Results

  • Catalogue of existing effective practices targeted at the promotion of integration, academic success and inclusion, wellbeing, and social belonging of refugee and asylum seeker children.

  • Procedure for involving all actors in each pilot setting in co-creation to choose the best action and methodology in each setting.

  • Implementation, follow-up and monitoring of the selected pilot actions in the different settings / countries.

  • Toolkit for evaluation of outcomes and process evaluation as well as a data management system, which can be used across the pilot actions sites.

  • Brokering Knowledge Platform for end-users and stakeholders and a transnational European community of learning and practise will also

  • Exploitation of the co-created effective practices to new settings across formal, informal and non-formal education.

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Objectives

In the REFUGE-ED project, the consortium will draw on its expertise in the fields of education and mental health and psychosocial support to implement successful educational actions.

Map & identify best practices

REFUGE-ED will map and identify best practices, tools and solutions in evidence-based MHPSS and education for formal, non-formal and informal learning environments.

Solutions should demonstrate a positive impact for the integration of refugee and asylum seeker children and unaccompanied minors, with an emphasis on the promotion of academic success, wellbeing, and social belonging.

Engage in dialogic co-creation

The project aims to engage all actors in a dialogic consultation and co-creation process to identify needs and how these can be successfully met by piloting evidence-based practices.

Actors include children and families, communities, civil society organisations and local service providers, schools and teaching staff – including school counsellors or other focal points focusing on MHPSS needs in the educational arena – and policymakers.

Implement pilot experiences

We will implement pilots of the co-created practices across the different migration stages and entry points in six European countries, fostering cross-intervention reflection and learning. Pilots will take place in reception identification centres, formal, non-formal and informal social and learning environments, institutional care, and schools.

Documentation and evaluation of the consultation and co-creation process provides knowledge about its impact on children’s social belonging, academic progress and wellbeing. With this knowledge, we can make sure the process is reusable, transferable and sustainable.

Make solutions available

Knowledge and solutions co-created in REFUGE-ED will be made available to the wider communities in easy-to use packages, which support implementation, training, social exchange and co-creation. To maximise the reusability, scalability and sustainability of the identified effective practices, the Brokering Knowledge Platform will be exploited through different existing platforms.

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Approach

The project is divided into five phases:

  1. Mapping and selection of good evidence-based education solutions with proven social impact.
  2. Development in a co-creative process in which working groups consisting of children, families, local service providers, schools, civil society organisations and policy makers chose and adapt the best solution for their specific context.
  3. Implementation through 46 pilots in sites spread over six countries. There are three main types of pilot sites: Non-formal educational settings; formal education; permanent informal education.
  4. Evaluation of the pilots and the co-creation processes.
  5. Development of the Knowledge Brokering Platform, which makes the solutions widely available including guidelines and training on adapting and co-creating tailor made solutions across educational settings in Europe.

How is our approach innovative?

It democratises scientific knowledge

We make scientific knowledge available to the most vulnerable communities.

As researchers and experts in education and mental health and psychosocial support we can recommend evidence-based solutions that have proven to achieve social impact. The project applies an approach called Communicative Methodology, which directly involves the subjects of the research in the research itself. This creates a deeper understanding of the social reality and informs pathways to social transformation.

The children and educators are the experts in their own lives – so we listen, talk, and create solutions that work FOR them, WITH them.

This is called a dialogic co-creation process, and it is the backbone in the REFUGE-ED project.

Children’s voice and decision-making capacities are key in the dialogic co-creative approach, especially in the case of girls, non-binary identifying children and those with mental health and psychosocial problems.

Everybody should have access to scientific advancements in education. But for non-experts to benefit from the science it is necessary to broker the scientific knowledge with the communities involved. With access to scientific evidence on what works in education and MHPSS, teachers, counsellors, families, and children are better able to face the challenges they are going through.

We do not create new solutions, because many already exist.

Rather we take existing evidence-based educational programmes and together with children, educators, parents, and other stakeholders we determine which would work best and how it would need to be adapted to a specific situation and how it can be scaled to work in other situations.

We repeat this process in all 46 pilot communities. Then four things will happen:

  • A presentation of what works in education and MHPSS will be performed in each pilot site, for all members of the community to decide which ones they want to implement
  • The tailormade solution is rolled out in the pilot community.
  • We evaluate how it went in each pilot community.
  • Based on data collected in the co-creation process, during the pilot studies and in the evaluation, we create the “Knowledge Brokering Platform”. The Knowledge Brokering Platform will contain a catalogue of evidence-based solutions, and guidelines, suggestions and tips on how pick the solutions that are right for the needs in your setting and further adapt them to fit even better.

It bridges the gap between education and MHPSS

REFUGE-ED merges two fields that are essential in achieving academic success, wellbeing, and a sense of belonging for refugee and asylum seeker children: Education and mental health and psychosocial support. The project brings together partners with expertise in both research and field work with refugee children.

The project is not about creating new educational tools from scratch – they already exist. The project will identify some of the most suited successful educational actions and create a dialogic process for all the community to adapt and chose the best solutions in their specific situations. These processes are presented and shared in a Brokering Knowledge Platform and can easily be replicated and scaled up.

It focuses on both formal and informal educational settings

Formal education: Takes place in an organised and structured environment specifically dedicated to learning. It typically leads to the award of a qualification. Examples of places offering formal education are schools, colleges, and universities.

Non-fomal education: Takes place through planned activities where some form of learning support is present. Examples of places offering non-formal education includes kindergartens, organised after-school activities, facilities for temporary hosting of refugees and asylum seekers.

Informal education: Results from daily activities related to work, family or leisure and is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support.

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