Home-schooling in refugee families

By Batool Hadous, Danyah Mahfouz, Hanin Kanjou, Hayet (name changed), Majd Kanjou, Meryem (name changed),Michael Seifert, Mohammed, Oula Mahfouz, Roula Al Sagheer, Sara Al Sagheer, Yousof Mahfouz


Soon, all pupils will be able to go to school temporarily, but still for most of them, online-learning in home-schooling is on the agenda. How do kids from refugee families experience this situation, to which they have been exposed since March 17th? The editorial staff of tünews INTERNATIONAL posed this question when Sara, a 5th grader at secondary school, handed in a text about this very topic. Her opinion is unambiguous: “We kids are learning online now. For me it is the worst not to go to school. And to be honest, I hate online-school like many others. You have to do a lot more homework, and it is no fun at all. If you don’t understand anything, there is nobody to ask besides your own parents or siblings. But oftentimes, they have learned it things a different way.”

The editorial staff collected further voices from children and their surroundings. The absence of direct contact with children of the same age expresses Mohammad (3rd grade) in a very drastic manner: “I simply HATE online! When I worked online for the first time, I was looking forward to seeing my friends. But my friends weren’t there and I was so mad. I totally freaked out.” Yousof (8th grade) feels left alone with the exercises: “My home-schooling doesn’t work that well, since unfortunately, I am not able to understand everything, for example which exercise I have to do. Because the number of tasks is high, I cannot complete all of them. Additionally, the exercises are poorly explained.” Hanin (6thgrade) finds it simply boring: “Home-schooling is not as good as going to school. Because it is boring. And I cannot do my homework as focussed as in school.”

Batool, who is preparing herself for vocational college for economics, has started a survey about experiences with home-schooling at her school and has only received negative feedback – many of which cannot even be printed. And her personal conclusion: does not sound better: “Unfortunately, my vote would be negative as well. Personally, I only took part for three weeks. We are six people at home. Our internet connection couldn’t manage all of us being in online video conferences at the same time. So, we had to miss several days.”

Yet, Batool looks beyond her own experience and sees a chance in the current situation: “The change to distant learning requires some adjustments, from teachers as well as students. After all, fixed structures have suddenly disappeared. The initial situation differs: whether and which technical or professional support can be guaranteed at home. I see it as the greatest challenge to take this into account. I see an opportunity in the fact that teachers and students meet and experience each other in new roles. This very difficult time, of course, will also pass. But we will be stronger than before when it is over.”

Despite all difficulties at the beginning, Majd (8th grade) also sees positive development opportunities: “Learning online was a new thing for most people and it took some getting used to. On the one hand, it is hard because you don’t have any support from teachers while learning and no one to explain the subject to you in detail. But on the other hand, it is an experience to learn, to organise yourself and to teach yourself, since we should be able to work independently in the future anyway. To some extent, home schooling was poorly prepared by the teachers and the school, but over time it has become much better, since students and teachers exchanged suggestions for improvement.”

Some seem to have a personal preference for learning online at home, like Hayet (name changed), (2nd grade): “Home-schooling is much better, because it is very calm and no one copies solutions from the other pupils. I find it great that my mum teaches me.” Just like Roula (10th grade): “I like online-education much better than classroom training. In class I cannot always focus, so I have to catch up everything at home. Now I have to do everything at home only once. And I have more leisure time. In the past, I always had stress because of exams and homework, but now I don’t have to worry and can do the things I like.”

Finally, the parents’ opinion about home-schooling should be taken into account, firstly Danyah: “For me as a mother of four children, it was difficult to learn with them at home, since the necessary technologies were not available. We only have one computer and I could not find the right ink for my old printer. I had to go to a shop and wait for a long time until I could print all these papers. It was also difficult for me to help the children with their homework, even though I used to be a teacher. The language gets in the way”. And Meryem (name changed): “For me as a mother, it is difficult on the one hand to find time for everything: first I have to explain the material, then I have to check all the exercises. Additionally, I am working in “home office”, cooking, cleaning and looking after my son. On the other hand, my daughter concentrates better at home. She is alone and doesn’t get distracted by other pupils.”

From all these voices it becomes clear that the success of home-schooling depends crucially on one side on the quality of the schools’ proposals and on the other side on the motivation and preconditions at home. But we can expect the future of everyday life in school to change through these experiences. And maybe Batool is right when she says: “But we will be stronger than before when it is over.”


Impressionen zum Leben in Zeiten der Corona-Pandemie: Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL; Oula Mahfouz, 11.06.2020

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