An Educator's Guide To Welcoming Syrian Refugee Children.

 
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On November 24, 2015, the federal government announced its plan to welcome 25,000 Syrian newcomers to Canada. As of January 20, 2016, 11,613 Syrian newcomers had arrived in Canada on 44 government-organized flights. There were 5,833 refugee applications finalized, but they had not yet travelled to Canada. There were 14,733 refugee resettlement applications in progress.1

In preparation, the Ontario government has been working with municipalities to identify provincial resources to support the settlement of the newcomers. Of particular importance will be integration of the new permanent residents into Ontario's education system.2

By the end of 2016, it is expected that approximately 10,000 new Canadians will resettle in areas such as the GTA, Hamilton, Mississauga, London and Ottawa. In terms of financial assistance, the government of Ontario is investing $10.5 million over the next two years to deliver support for refugees and organizations that are privately sponsoring them. In addition, the provincial government has already provided $330,000 to Lifeline Syria, which assists in the recruitment and training of private refugee sponsors.3

CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA

Syria is a country in the Middle East with a population of 22 million. It is very diverse, both ethnically and religiously. Most Syrians are ethnic Arab and will follow the Sunni branch of Islam, however, there are also minorities such as ethnic Kurds, Christian Arabs and some Jewish Arabs.4

The UN reports that more than 10 million people have fled Syria since the civil war began in 2011, most of them women and children.5 This represents one of the largest refugee movements in recent history. A March 2015 report published by the UN estimated that four out of five Syrians were living in poverty.6

The majority of Syrian newcomers are living in Jordan and Lebanon, the region's two smallest countries, which are under enormous stress. An increasing number of refugees are fleeing across the border into Turkey, creating considerable tensions and overwhelming host communities.7

School age children from Syria may have had years of lost or interrupted schooling. The Syrian children who have attended school in asylum countries may have been targets of bullying, violence and prejudice.8 Children who were born in refugee camps may have health issues, poor nutrition, limited food and inadequate hygiene for prolonged periods of time.

Syrian life centers around family life, with particular value placed on children. The separation of children into the education system, even only during the day, may be extremely difficult for some children and parents.

CULTURE SHOCK IN YOUNG REFUGEE CHILDREN

A publication by Childminding Monitor Advisory & Support ("CMAS") entitled "Caring for Syrian Refugee Children: A Program Guide for Welcoming Young Children and Their Families" reviews the impact of the refugee experience on children.

The CMAS Guide indicates that entering a new culture is often very traumatic for young children.9 Research indicates that emotional regression is very common.

"Children's emotional expression may be quite volatile or they may experience extreme anxiety when separating from their parent. The child may use physical force or act aggressively when fearful. Alternatively, they may become very apathetic even when strongly provoked. They may easily tune out adults who try to guide their behaviour."10

The research indicates that in the early stages of culture shock, children are often unable to play and may be disinterested in the play of others. From an intellectual perspective, a child may have weak...

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