We cannot walk alone

“The world is bearing witness to the largest migrations and displacement of people since the end of World War II, with entire communities being driven away from their home countries due to conflict, extreme violence, economic and political instability, and environmental hazards. Today, 281 million people are international migrants, nearly 26 million are refugees, and as of 2020, more than 80 million have been forced to leave their homes as a result of persecution, conflict, or generalized violence” - WHO

This year’s theme for Refugee Week is inspired by the words of Dr Martin Luther King – “we cannot walk alone”. Though speaking in the context of the civil rights movement, Dr King’s words transcend time and bear relevance today. 

It is a message that speaks to the values of the NEU: we understand that our movement is global and that our prosperity is interwoven with the strength of our sisters and brothers across the UK and around the world – none of us are free until we are all free. 

An estimated 1% of the global population – 79.5 million people – are living in forced displacement. This includes 26 million refugees, half of whom are children. A large proportion of these children live in protracted crises, which means they often spend years – if not all – of their school life in displacement. The barriers to quality learning are considerable and the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating inequalities. 

Ensuring the rights of refugees, including the right to education, is a shared responsibility – it requires a collective endeavour between governments and civil society. Internationally, for the UK, one parts of this responsibility includes leading with a progressive aid budget. However, the Government is currently slashing ODA by £4bn, including aid to the Rohingya humanitarian crisis by 40%. This must be reversed.  

And now the situation in the Middle East means there will be more displaced families and refugees. The NEU  has updated its advice, Conflict in the Middle East: Issues for Schools, which aims to support members to deal with the reactions of pupils and the wider community to the conflict. While some of the challenges staff face may require short-term measures to be taken, there are also longer-term issues around anti-racism that can be addressed on an ongoing basis through the curriculum and by the promotion of a positive all-school environment and ethos.  See also the NEU Anti-Racist Framework 

Nationally, ensuring the rights of refugees means leading a system where refugees and asylum seekers can live safely within inclusive communities and where their contributions, creativity and potential can flourish. This is why Refugee Week is so important.  

The experiences of the last year have exposed deep inequalities including in housing, income and access to healthcare and education, particularly for refugees.  But the crisis has also shown how interconnected we can be – that the wellbeing of each of us depends on the welfare, safety and hard work of others.   

When we choose to walk side by side, to share networks and resources, or make space for others to lead, we create deeper and longer-lasting change than is possible alone. 

The NEU is making a donation to Refugee Week and also supports the British Rohingya Community, and the Lift the Ban Campaign.  The NEU CPD team have arranged the following webinar to mark Refugee Week.  

Using CARGO classroom – an introduction – Wednesday 16, June 16, 3.45-4.45pm  

This webinar will explore the resources of CARGO classroom in relation to the movement of refugees and the relevance to young people in the UK. CARGO’s resources use poetry, film and illustrations to help pupils engage with the lives they are learning about. 

CARGO is led by Lawrence Hoo, a POET and Charles Golding filmmaker and creative director. Teachers and other activists have used their own experiences in school to develop resources for History at Key Stage 3.  

Click here to register

Whoever and wherever you are, we hope you’ll join us in making Refugee Week 2021 a bold, collective act of reaching out; a space for us all to listen; to exchange and connect and find out what we can learn from each other and build together. 


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