Education for the Future: A Glimpse of Hope of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Cisarua

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Kelas di CisaruaFor asylum seekers and refugees, to leave their country is not only leaving their home, friends, and family, but also all opportunities to learn and develop through education. However, formal education is mostly not accessible for them while in transit countries. Education is really important for asylum seekers and refugees, not only as fundamental right, but also as a source of hope to keep learning even in uncertainty, so they can get better lives once an opportunity is given. UNHCR mentioned that education is the key for a safe and sustainable future for refugees and their community.

Unfortunately, education opportunities for asylum seekers and refugees in transit countries like Indonesia are not sufficient and not according to their needs. To get education, they rely on initiatives from humanitarian organizations and the support of individuals. Some of those organizations have played a big role in encouraging the establishment of a learning center for asylum seekers and refugees. Asylum seekers and refugees understand that being not allowed to work leaves very few options or activities. Parents are restless because their children cannot get formal education from schools.

JRS understands that frustration. In the beginning of JRS’ presence in Bogor in 2010, education was part of our core program by visiting asylum seekers and refugees who asked JRS to accompany them in learning English and Indonesian. When in 2013, JRS became the only humanitarian organization accompanying asylum seekers and refugees in Cisarua. The provided home schooling was not enough anymore. Fortunately JRS got the help from talented asylum seekers and refugees who volunteer as teachers in the JRS Learning Centre for free.

These volunteer teachers are so passionate. Even though they live in uncertainty, they still want to share their knowledge. One of them is Ibrahim. Even if sometimes he experiences anxieties about his UNHCR interview results, he is still very passionate in teaching English everyday at JRS Learning Center. “A wise man once told me that knowledge had to be shared. We shouldn’t be selfish and keep the knowledge only for ourselves, we have to share it. That’s my main motivation in being a teacher in JRS Learning Centre”.

Ibrahim joined the volunteer teachers at JRS Learning Centre at a time when we received many new students. We opened new classes. The students now are not only asylum seekers and refugee’s children but also their parents.

When JRS Learning Center opened new classes, I was so delighted. I never felt burdened, it made me happy instead. The students came and their number increased, it means they see hope in me, in the knowledge I shared. They are hopeful for better future. And I have a little but adequate knowledge of English, so why don’t I share it?” said Ibrahim.

For Ibrahim and probably other asylum seekers and refugees, education is not only a right but a symbol of hope. The growth of the learning centre driven by the asylum seekers and refugee community confirms Ibrahim’s statement, “Our children have to keep learning. They must always have hope of a brighter and promising future. That’s our only reason to survive here,” Ali said. He and the parents of 30 asylum seeker children opened their own learning center in mid 2015 with 3 classes. The teachers are from that same community. The classes expanded to other subjects than English, such as mathematics, science, and art.

In another village, Habib Abdul and his community also run a learning center. The teachers here have a special day for them to learn together. Habib said. “Teachers here have high motivation to learn. They have their own goals. That’s why we decided to have a special class for teachers to learn together, share knowledge, and raise our quality”.

Learning center facilities get additional meaning. It is not only a location to learn, a place to fulfill asylum seekers and refugees’ right to education, but also a place to socialize, to interact, and feel safe. Some volunteer teachers who teach in other learning centers are registered as JRS learning center students for handicraft, finance, or advanced English classes.

“I don’t know how it would be without JRS Learning Centre,” Ali said. He is a refugee who volunteered as teacher in JRS Learning Center since 2013. “For me this is like a second home. Even for other asylum seekers, JRS Learning Center feels like their home. We can come, discuss about our lessons, to have some activities, to forget a bit about our misery and uncertainty about our future by nurturing our hope in this learning-teaching activity here. This is not just a place to learn. This is our place, to keep up our hope of the future,” he added.


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