Change in Exile project: Re-invigorating Principles of Reform and Social Stability amongst Young, Syrian Refugees in Denmark and Lebanon, the FACE (Fund for Academic Cooperation and Exchange between Denmark and the Arab World) project.
Roskilde University and International Alert Lebanon (Large Grant Contract L-10-2016). Countries: Denmark and Lebanon.
Re-invigorating principles of reform and social stability amongst young Syrian refugees in Denmark and Lebanon was an 8 month project funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs under their Danish Arab Partnership Programme / Fund for Academic Cooperation and Exchange between Denmark and the Arab World. Roskilde University in Denmark and Alert International in Lebanon were the main partners. Together we were looking at the role of formal and informal education activities in fostering socially meaningful interactions and encounters between young Syrian refugees and their Danish / Lebanese counterparts in their respective host societies (in our case Denmark and Lebanon).
In Denmark, although officially we have a pluralistic integration policy – where everybody lives together and can maintain their respective cultural practices, in reality Denmark has an assimilationist policy. Denmark’s benchmark of “successful assimilation” is one of successful individual inclusion and acculturation to the mores of Danish life. The Danish integration programme that all refugees have to undertake is now offered from one up to five years. In the formal education system refugees under 18 years of age participate in special programmes within the public school system. Once they achieve a Danish language level of 2 (Danish 2) they have an equal opportunity to continue in the public education system which they enter at the 9th grade. The involvement of young refugees in informal education activities is the responsibility of Danish municipalities and activities can vary across municipalities.
At Roskilde municipality, where the principal investigator of this FACE project works closely with Bent Hansen – responsible for young refugees – there are many informal educational activities taking place for young refugees and young Danes to get together. These initiatives include dance workshops which culminate in a public performance after some weeks, culinary experiences where young Danes and refugees shop together, cook together and eat together, movie evenings where these two groups watch a film together, amongst other initiatives. There are also mixed initiatives for example the Study Buddy initiative where a young refugee gets help from a Danish youngster in his or her Maths homework for example. Thus an informal initiative in this case supports the formal educational activity. Both our partners in Lebanon and we in Denmark have so far experienced more socially meaningful interactions between young refugees and their host community’s counterparts through informal educational activities. Our project is solution oriented which means that we aim to give a voice to minor refugees and young people from host societies to tell us what they need for meaningful integration in these communities. For this project we worked closely with community psychologists to ensure that we deal appropriately and on a needs-approach basis with these vulnerable teenagers. Our aim was that through our indicative findings so far we encourage those in power to streamline non formal educational activities that truly provide young refugees and youngsters in host communities with meaningful encounters.
This project aimed to strengthen collaboration between Danish and MENA academics and practitioners by producing knowledge on the role of education in promoting principles of democracy and reform among Syrian refugee teenagers in exile. The research focused on formal and non-formal education as avenues for strengthening social stability and cohesion in host communities in Denmark and Syria’s neighbouring countries – mainly Lebanon – that host the majority of these refugees. The project’s objectives are (1) to generate knowledge on the role of education in promoting democratic principles to support social stability between young Syrian refugees and host communities in Denmark and Lebanon; and (2) to enable dialogue and cooperation between academia, municipalities, NGO practitioners and UN agencies from Denmark, Lebanon and other countries neighbouring Syria to share learning experiences and inform policies that support social stability.