Perceptions and experiences of integration for refugee learners.
Public opinion, media and literature describe refugees as generally suffering, traumatised, dependent, helpless victims without power, in need of constant guidance and support in order to find solutions to their predicament. Humanitarian assistance may be accused of perpetuating this dependency and disempowerment. To me this may be true of refugees in encampment. The perception portrayed in the various media is unfitting and a sharp contrast to the perceptions and experiences of refugees learners encountered in this study. I questioned for myself the potential image of refugee learners being powerless and helpless and felt that if all refugees shared that view outlined above, it would worsen their situation instead of empowering their aspirations, history and capacities. So I chose to ask the refugee learners. This led to the purpose and core area of consideration of this study entitled "Perceptions and experiences of integration for refugee learners." In this study I focused on refugee learners from African countries Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Kenya. It offers them a voice and makes them actors in their own stories. My study is intended to inform the reader of the personal experiences of refugees within a South African context shedding light on the specifics of access to and support from social services and other institutional and informal actors. It was necessary to employ multiple research instruments to analyse the experiences of refugees who attend the site where I am currently based as an educator. Preliminary questionnaires completed by refugee learners revealed themes integral to their experience and perception of integration: living arrangements, social resources, and education. These themes were further explored one-on-one interviews, focus group discussion and a snap survey. It is my view that institutional resources already in place by stakeholders are not fully utilised as refugee learners are often an after-thought in the service provision for citizen children. Refugee learners encounter difficulties in accessing education facilities and living arrangements do not consistently meet protection requirements. As a result, refugee learners frequently experience isolation and confusion regarding their present and future stakes in South Africa. Based on these findings, this study will make recommendations for policy design and development of programme for refugee integration within the broader South African society.