Dr. Karl Kitching presents at Educaring for Asylum Seeker and Refugee Children and Young People Symposium

6 Jun 2017
L-R Hilary Harmon, Child Refugee Project Manager, Children's Rights Alliance, Lucky Khambule, Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, Barbara O'Toole, Marino Institute of Education, Karl Kitching, School of Education UCC, Rory McDaid, Marino Institute of Education, Mano Candappa, Institute of Education University College London.

The event, which took place on June 2nd in Marino Institute of Education, featured a range of national and international speakers on the education issues facing children and young people in Ireland who are living in Direct Provision or granted refugee status.

The event organised by Dr. Rory McDaid drew an audience of school teachers, other educators and advocates for asylum seeker and refugee children and young people. The keynote speaker was Ms. Mano Candappa, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Education, University College London.

Dr. Kitching collaborated with Lucky Khambule, Movement of Asyum Seekers in Ireland, to address the education needs of children and young people in living in Direct Provision in particular. Dr. Kitching outlined some of the education barriers facing students living in Direct Provision, such as 

  • The difficulty of establishing family privacy as meals and other activities happen in shared rooms
  • Families living in one room/space making it difficult to study
  • Some one parent families live with strangers
  • The pressure and tediousness of life in DP leading to children’s boredom and hyperactivity
  • Children cannot bring friends ‘home’
  • Parents' choice of schools is extremely limited and parents have difficulty attending parent teacher meetings as they are heavily dependent on public transport and where the school bus goes
  • Financial constraints meaning after-school activities are limited
  • Children being stigmatized and harassed at school because they live in Direct Provision
Dr. Kitching outlined from his book The Politics of Compulsive Education: Racism and Learner-Citizenship (click for more) how schools, students, teachers and communities have been involved in challenging the Direct Provision and deportation system through protest actions. However, these protests often focus on individual students and not on the system itself. He asserted that, in contrast to the UK system at least in principle, there is a lack of systematic education guidelines and resources such as translation and therapeutic services to cater for the specific needs of asylum seeker and refugee children and young people. He noted from the work of UCC Applied Social Studies colleagues Dr. Shirley Martin, Dr. Jacqui O'Riordan, Dr. Deirdre Hogan and Prof. Alastair Christie (click for more) that while schools 'cared' for asylum seeker families, parents living in Direct Provision could be constructed as 'hard to reach' and 'unwilling to get involved' in school life and their children's education. He noted to the contrary that for many parents:
  • It is difficult for parents to get involved in parent association fundraising due to childcare issues and lack of transport
  • There are serious ethical concerns over principals communicating with DP management and staff about children and parents
  • Notwithstanding the sensitivities of individual cases in schools, there can be a silence about deportation of children who are/were in the school, and a silence about migration barriers in general
Dr. Kitching advocated a range of in-school and out-of-school strategies which align with Dr. Frieda McGovern's recommendations here but also recommended schools and teachers play a more active role in advocating against the Direct Provision and deportation system both outside of school and in the school curriculum. Teachers for Refugees in Australia were cited throughout the event as an example that could be built upon.
Towards the end of the day, many people at the symposium agreed that they would like to participate in a 'Teachers with Refugees'-style organisation and conversations on this will be ongoing.


For more on this story contact:

Dr. Karl Kitching:

School of Education

Scoil an Oideachais

Leeholme, O' Donovan's Road, Cork, Ireland