The role of community participation and relevant secondary education for out-of-school youth refugees in Ethiopia

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Education


The Challenge of our Time.

Forcibly Displaced People (FDP), their migration and hardship, have been described as the defining issue of our time (Miles, 2015). FDP worldwide are equivalent to the population of France; half are children (UNHCR 2016a). Political, social and infrastructural norms in Europe and the Middle East are being tested by the current crisis but these effects have long been felt elsewhere.

The Research

This research will work with young refugees who do not attend secondary school in a camp in Ethiopia; exploring barriers to their accessing education and the potential within their communities to overcoming these. To achieve this, the research will include the participation of youth, parents, potential teachers, community leaders and partner organisations.

The Ethiopian Context

Ethiopia, where I have worked as a teacher trainer, hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa, whilst being among the poorest (UNDP, 2016). Education in Ethiopian refugee camps is limited, and of low quality (UNHCRb, 2016). In neighbouring South Sudan, educational shortfalls have been linked to re-occurring conflict (Novelli et al. 2016). The education of out-of-school youth refugees is a particularly under-researched area (Kirk & Winthrop, 2007) despite chronically low enrolment of secondary age refugees in Ethiopia (UNICEF, 2016).

Refugee Education Policy and Community

The importance of education is increasingly recognised for sustainable peace and development (Novelli et al, 2015), to the extent that education is now considered to be the fourth pillar of humanitarian response (Dryden-Peterson, 2011). Minimum standards have been developed (INEE, 2015), but resources and capacity mean that access to education in Ethiopian camps is limited (Kirk & Winthrop, 2007).

Educational interventions based on international political and economic agendas, ignoring epistemological differences, are ineffective in many contexts (Schweinfurt 2011, 2013; Tabulawa, 2003), including in Ethiopia (Pillay, 2010; Preston, 2016). The irrelevance of education and its failures to match needs to the realities of employment is linked with 'waithood' (Singerman, 2007) and in Africa with social unrest (Honwana, 2014). To respond to these challenges, community is central (Plant, 2011). The concept of community is contested and evolving (ibid). However, community praxis (Freire, 1972), it is argued, is better placed to develop a relevant educational approach to meet needs of specific groups (Butcher, 2007). Research is integral to this notion of community praxis (Ledwith, 2005:34).

Aim and Research Questions

This research aims to provide a space for community intervention in education. In this process partner organisations, will facilitate access, support action and disseminate findings.

i. What barriers prevent secondary age youth refugees from accessing education?
ii. How can community participation in interventions provide improved educational opportunities for these refugee youths?
iii. How can the involvement of partner organisations support this community centred approach?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1925917 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 27/12/2020 Martin Preston