They arrive in Canada by the thousands each year — children who have lived through the trauma and violence of war, family separation and loss. Many struggle in classrooms to fit in, and too many drop out. The University of Winnipeg’s Dr. Jan Stewart is leading a Canadian study aimed at helping these refugee youth navigate school and find meaningful careers.
Stewart is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education. “Integration is a two way process,” she says. “These youth are trying to find their way but we have an important role to play in supporting them, and in understanding their unique needs. Our study is examining what’s working and why so we can develop best practices and share that with educators and policy makers.”
Almost a quarter of a million newcomers settle in Canada each year – and 6,000 are refugees under the age of 18 (Statistics Canada, 2012).
The three-year study on refugee student integration involves researchers in Winnipeg, Calgary, St. John’s and Charlottetown. They are conducting extensive interviews in the community with organizations that assist refugees, examining current career development and counselling programs, and will hold regional focus groups. The study will also look at how to meet the career development needs of refugee youth and how to help them transition out of school and into the workforce. In Manitoba, Stewart is visiting and meeting with people on the front lines in Winnipeg, Altona, Portage La Prairie, Neepawa, Winkler, and Russell. The University of Winnipeg will host a national consultation with policy makers in 2016 to share results.
“We have some very good programs that are working but there is a piecemeal approach,” says Stewart. “Refugee youth have experienced disrupted schooling as well as emotional trauma and that requires additional knowledge and training on the part of educators. Our goal is to develop practical resources that schools and teachers can use. We still have a lot to do to prepare ourselves to work as a diverse city and country.”
The study is funded by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
Dr. Jan Stewart has conducted numerous seminars at national and international conferences on the needs and educational challenges of children who have been affected by conflict, violence, abuse, mental health issues, neglect, and human rights violations. She is the author of The Anger Workout Book for Teens, The STARS Program and The Tough Stuff Series; and a book entitled Supporting Refugee Children: Strategies for Educators (University of Toronto Press). UWinnipeg’s Global College awarded Dr. Stewart the 2010 Marsha Hanan Global Ethics Award.
Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg
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