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Kurdistan-Iraq May-June 2015

Childhood in a refugee camp


9 year-old Sherin*clings to an emergency pedagogue. Since the volunteer German team from the Friends of Waldorf Education has been working in the refugee camp, she rarely leaves the side of the mission leader. The emergency pedagogue could only guess at what the Yazidi girl, who fled from the Sinjar-mountain region, has had to endure. She wouldn’t speak about it.

To help children like Sherin long-term wuth the processing of their terrible experiences, the Friends of Waldorf Education in cooperation with UNICEF, have installed nine local pedagogues and set up a local office. A volunteer German team was on site from the 29th of May until the 12th of June to train the local team. The emergency pedagogical team was made up of experienced art therapists, experiential pedagogues, Waldorf preschool teachers and a teacher for special needs. In the mornings, the emergency pedagogical team together with the local team could work with about 770 traumatised children in four UNICEF schools. At the same time, the work with the children served as part of the practical training of the local pedagogues. In preparatory and follow-up discussions, the workshops were discussed and analysed. Bit by bit, the leadership of the therapeutic offerings was transferred into the hands of the Iraqi colleagues. In the afternoons, the training of the local team was continued in workshops designed to deepen understanding of the methods used. The traumatisation of the local team was also discussed and attended to using emergency pedagogical methods. After the terrible experiences of fleeing from their homes, the living conditions in the refugee camp are for all residents additionally burdensome. With temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius, the heat in the tents was already intolerable early in the morning. But the residents have nowhere else to go, nowhere to cool down. Running water and electricity are only sporadically available. In the absence of perspectives for the future, the refugees can’t break free from their victim roles. The teachers of the UNICEF schools themselves feel powerless. For this reason, further training in the methods of emergency pedagogy was also offered to them. Here, the teachers' basic knowledge, gained during the last mission in March of this year, could be built upon. For many of the teachers, how to deal with their pupils’ aggressive and destructive behaviour was of upmost importance. In workshops, the teachers received explanations for the trauma related behavioural changes of the children and possible pedagogical solutions were discussed. In this way, the teachers were themselves strengthened and they were able to achieve more stable lessons. Also parents were offered advisement. Over 100 mothers and fathers were informed about the effects of traumatisation on their children, about possible stress reactions, and how to provide a supportive and stabilizing approach. After the completion of the German team’s emergency pedagogical mission, the work was then taken over by the local pedagogues. They will be supported in the future by a project leader, who will coordinate the work on the ground.

*name changed

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