Supporting Teachers and Students During Unprecedented Time of Worldwide Displacement

People fleeing in front of an image of the world

The year 2022 was record-breaking, with more than 100 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, the largest number in history.

As we start a new year, it is important to look back on the developments of 2022 and what Childhood Education International is doing to support education in displacement contexts, as well as what more can be done globally.

The Impact of Displacement

Experiences of displacement can be devastating and deeply impact children, families, and adults.

People who experience displacement often have witnessed or been victims to violence, conflict, and persecution. As they seek safety, their personal well-being and their livelihoods are interrupted.

For the millions of children who are forcibly displaced, school and other learning opportunities can be interrupted or lost entirely, impacting their sense of well-being, safety, and security, as well as their long-term opportunities for growth and advancement.

The Center for Professional Learning (CPL) at Childhood Education International has been working with educators worldwide to support and bolster their work with young people who have experienced displacement. As we begin this new year, we share a brief snapshot of some of the evolving crises that have exacerbated displacement, as well as our commitment to continuing to serve educators and students in 2023 and beyond.

Worldwide Displacement

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 resulted in historically high levels of forced displacement. This conflict has caused the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the end of World War II. At the end of November 2022, there were 7.8 million registered Ukrainian refugees across Europe, and more than 15.59 million border crossings from Ukraine have been recorded since the conflict began.

Despite heroic efforts in countries hosting Ukrainian refugees, many children have still faced disruptions to their education and continue to experience the effects of trauma. In Ukraine, children returned to school on September 1, but many did so online or in a hybrid learning format. Research suggests that the likeliest educational challenge that Ukraine will face as the war continues will be recognizing the effects of trauma and helping children cope with it during the continuing war and in the months and years that follow.

While the world turned its attention to Ukraine, longer-lasting conflicts in other parts of the world seemed to fade into the rearview in news reports, despite their ongoing catastrophic consequences. The civil war in Syria has killed almost half a million people and left nearly 90 percent of the country living below the poverty line. Sadly, the nation continues to be rattled by conflict. 

In 12 years of conflict, the Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest displacement crisis in the world. Since it began, the Syrian civil war has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Many of these refugees have settled in Lebanon. While the UNHCR counts 825,000 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Lebanese authorities estimate that the figure is closer to around 1.5 million — a daunting number for such a small nation. The Lebanese Ministry of Education developed two strategies – implemented in 2014 and 2017 – to absorb some 500,000 Syrian children into the public education system. Through these strategies, children have been placed into public school classrooms, and a second shift was added for teachers. The majority of Syrians (around 75 percent) attend afternoon shift classes. 

Many other displacement crises have been and continue to occur worldwide without receiving much international media attention. In South Sudan, nearly 2.3 million people have fled to neighboring countries, and 1.87 million remain internally displaced. Insecurity, violence, and disasters have displaced more than 5 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another continuing crisis – the largest ever in the Western Hemisphere – is unfolding in Venezuela. Over 7.1 million Venezuelans have fled the country due to violence and political and economic instability. Venezuelan refugees, including children, have faced discrimination as bordering nations, many of which have their own internal struggles, struggle to cope with the migrants. 

Climate Displacement

Finally, it is impossible to ignore the climate crises that have had a critical role in displacement.

Most recently, unprecedented flooding in Pakistan has resulted in the internal displacement of thousands of people and has left children without access to education. The flooding has also resulted in vector-borne diseases and food insecurity, as well as lost access to potable water and sanitation.

Pakistan hosts many of the region’s refugees and has been a top resettler of Afghans for more than 40 decades, following a trend seen worldwide in which developing countries take on the majority of the world’s refugees.

Worldwide, the climate crisis is both driving displacement and creating additional challenges for people forced to flee for other reasons. Impacts from extreme weather, growing food insecurity, and sea level changes have been and are likely to continue to result in impacts on education for children and families.

Over the past year, we have grown our work in  equipping, uplifting, and empowering teachers who work with displaced, refugee, or otherwise vulnerable learners to be effective in their practice and leaders in their communities.

CPL has launched a new Open Education Resources Library with free professional development materials in English, French, and Arabic, and has offered online courses in social-and-emotional learning, trauma-informed practices, designing for learning, and getting to know refugee and immigrant students and families.

This fall, CPL co-hosted a webinar series with the Office of Global Engagement at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. This series sought to open discussions with educators, policymakers, researchers, and practitioners on how to build collaboration, foster belonging, and support well-being for refugee and (im)migrant students.

CPL also recently launched two new initiatives in Ukraine that will focus on well-being and professional learning opportunities for educators in social-and-emotional learning, trauma-informed practice, holistic pedagogies, and/or English language teaching.

Learn More

These crises may have you wondering what you can do to help children whose education has been adversely affected. Perhaps the best first step is to inform yourself and find opportunities to help within your local context. By reaching out to organizations in your area, you may find that you can make small contributions of time or expertise that can make a big difference. You may wish to read through this list of International Agencies and NGOs or this one focused on private organizations. You can learn how to support CE International’s work here.