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Starting Primary School in Ireland: the Experience of Refugee Children and their Families Dr. Philomena Donnelly St. Patricks College, Dublin EECERA Prague.

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Presentation on theme: "Starting Primary School in Ireland: the Experience of Refugee Children and their Families Dr. Philomena Donnelly St. Patricks College, Dublin EECERA Prague."— Presentation transcript:

1 Starting Primary School in Ireland: the Experience of Refugee Children and their Families Dr. Philomena Donnelly St. Patricks College, Dublin EECERA Prague 2007

2 Direct Provision Since April a system of direct provision Full board accommodation Small amount of money but not social welfare Not permitted to choose or change address Reception and Integration Agency under the Department of Justice, Equality and law Reform In 2002-nearly 2,000 asylum seekers recognised as refugees. In 2005 dropped to 966 due to constitutional change

3 Direct Provision Each adult had a weekly allowance of Each child 9.52 Bed, breakfast and evening meal provided as well as household items such as cleaning fluids, some toiletries Children get an allowance for nappies up to age three 25% of people living in Direct provision Centres in 2005 were under the age of four

4 Purpose of Research To document the experience of children and parents who obtained residency status of starting primary school in Ireland Jill Rutter(2006) talks of the lack of research in the educational experiences of children who are refugees in comparison with the volume of studies on the traumatic experiences of these children

5 Research Participants Through the assistance of an accommodation centre, I met with a group of parents in June 2005 and explained the purpose and process of the research Thirteen parents agreed to participate-all women All had a child starting primary school in September girls and six boys

6 Research method Children and their parent/s were interviewed in August 2005 before the children started school Interviewed again at the end of the first term Dec 05- at this point some of the families had received residency papers and were moving out of the centre. This often meant a change of school for the child

7 Interviews again took place in June/July 06 when the children had completed a year of primary school- the majority of the families had moved out of the accommodation centre at this point although some were still there

8 Interviews again took place in June/ July 07- at the end of the two year early years cycle in Irish primary schools Initially many parents showed great caution- some requested that the interview would not be taped- by the second interview they all were more comfortable

9 Profile of Families Resident in Ireland from 5 months to 3 years in direct provision Average 2 and a half years 5 were accompanied by husbands 1 family of 4 children, 4 with 3 children and the rest had 2 children 12 families from Nigeria and 1 from Ghana

10 Parents Qualifications 9 of the mothers have 3 rd level qualifications Dip. In Marketing, Post-grad in Marketing, Higher Dip. in Banking and Finance, Dip. In accountancy, Dip. in Computer Science, Degree in Psychology, Dip in Travel and Tourism, Dip in Food Science and Technology, Degree in Economics (Mothers) Motor Mechanics, Computer Science, Degree in Engineering (Fathers)

11 Finding a School 6 had found a primary school through talking to friends 4 through the DJLR 2 through their Church 1 a local Resource Centre

12 Anticipations and Concerns The majority of children had started school before the residency was granted Traveled on buses from the accommodation centre to schools in local towns- one child was attending a country school outside the town: concerns would the children get on the right bus etc

13 Parents hopes -that they would do well in school and make a contribution to society- would be good people That they wouldnt be bullied or be the subject of racist remarks The tension of waiting for residency/ rumours

14 Transitions Finding accommodation – many operate through friends Finding a school/ changing school- the number of changes some of these children had experienced Learning how and where things operate Many expressed little knowledge of the education system Making a living telling jokes

15 Starting School All but one of the children had to move school when the family moved out of direct provision All found the schools helpful, informative and supportive The majority attended a meeting for new parents

16 Because I am not Irish they did not separate us from the Irish. Secretary said to pay ( for school books) what you can when you can. I was surprised They found people such as Principals helpful and available One felt a teacher was complaining a lot about her childs behaviour

17 Childrens Comments Loved school, the exercise outside (playtime), singing Child aware of Irish-English compared to Nigerian- English ( dropping th) Happy at school but gets tired one day I forgot my lunch and a white boy give me a sandwich The loss of friends when moving schools- they wont play with me

18 Playing with toys, dinosaurs, jigsaws Theres so much fun, Im allowed to play Dolls- one black one and others What are the other children like? They like to eat Friends featured strongly Two mentioned birthday parties

19 Im from Mosney We came here from Nigeria and then we came from Mosney and then we moved here. I remember going to school with my pink Barbie bag. Pink is my favourite colour GAA- Irish football/ soccer

20 Some interim overviews Social networks- in Mosney, Churches Danger of poverty- curtains/ coats, childcare Information ( Irish National Teachers Organisation –INTO ) booklet, Tips for Parents- as a result of the research have an insert explaining the Education system in several languages

21 Parents Comments Some found the move out of the accommodation centre difficult-finding new schools, children being unsettled Felt the children were so used to being with parents all of the time Knew some Irish parents through chatting at school gate although there was a certain caution around this

22 Four parents mentioned Maeves mum- an Irish parent who made an effort to speak and ask the children to her house to play One parent felt when children fighting, teacher speaks to black parents but when the white children fight, the teacher does not speak to their parents One parent felt very up and down One was receiving help with her children from her church

23 Cold and fog a negative One parent reacted very badly to the schools suggestion that the child repeat the first year A male teacher in early years –cultural difference The majority spoke highly of the teaching approaches

24 Completing the Research Interviewed children and their families June /July 07 – a number of fathers have joined their wives and children Re-applying for residency In July 07-interviewed the principal and two class teachers of the school where many of the children in the research attend- these interviews are in the process of transcription and analysis

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