Refugees increase, face education, language hurdles

Capital News Service
LANSING — The world has a growing number of displaced people driven from their homes because of conflict, more than ever before, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. For the 86 percent of them in developing countries, that means increasingly limited access to quality education. “Education is vital in restoring hope and dignity to young people driven from their homes,” the agency said. But even refugees living in Michigan may face serious obstacles in obtaining education, experts say. Zeina Hamade, a community outreach coordinator at the U.S. Committee for Refugees-Detroit, said refugee children “are not able to attend school because of the political situation in their countries, but they also must put their education on pause, usually for a few years, while they are waiting to be resettled.”
In Hamade’s experience, children who are resettled in Michigan “are continually trying to catch up on their education.”
And Erin Blackwell, a program coordinator for the West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center in Grand Rapids, said the children she sees have been exposed to trauma and interrupted schooling.