Where is the future of a refugee child who has found a sanctuary in a foreign country from a war torn country. The child lives in a refugee camp where all around him are depressed people. Outside the camp, although he or she is safe, he or she faces discrimination from the local community. The child yearns for a better life, but he or she continues asking him or herself if his situation will ever end. It’s as if in the midst of his or her hopelessness there is a drought of imagination or a realistic dream, to salvage his or her potential before it is lost in the abyss of defeatism.
This child does not make sense of motivational speakers because he or she does not see even the narrowest path in his life. Parents can hardly tell him or her anything because they have lost hope. He or she struggles to learn a new language at school and progress in his or her education is impeded. He or she used to be a top students but performs poorly due to language barriers. This child sees his or her future aspiration as fantasies, no dream is realistic to him or her, as a result he or she gives up.
Unfortunately, this is the experience of many refugees children.
Gloria Steinem said “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning,”.
I could ask, how does one finds that imagination to inspire or a dream to lead him or her when hope is elusive?
Few refugee children have the imagination or a dream that Gloria Steinem mentions, which means that many have not drafted a blueprint of their lives. But they have let the wool of hopelessness cover their mental eyes and have chosen to accept their situation.
I was once in the same situation and I had accepted it. Two years out of school had convinced me to settle for less. My first impression was that if I passed all the classes and do well in high school I would have moved on to continued with tertiary education. Unfortunately, after discovering that I was going nowhere I had to yield. The government of Swaziland could not offer me a scholarship after being accepted at the University of Swaziland. The Nazarene Nursing College did not exempt me from tuition charges because I was not a Swazi national. I decided to do menial (odd) jobs to earn some income. I felt responsible, but I knew that I would be stuck in the poverty cycle that my parents were in for many years. Luckily, an opportunity presented itself, I was accepted at Waterford Kamhlaba UWC, Swaziland. That is when I felt like my future was back in my hands, I could at least control my destiny. I later attended Luther College, in the United States, where I found good mentors to help me move forward. Owing to that I will be pursuing a Ph.D in Political Science at the University of Kansas.
Regrettably, there are many children in refugee camps around the world who have accepted their situation and they have learnt to find bliss in hopelessness. Somalis, Syrians, Libyans, Sudanese and many others from countries whirling with unrest.
If you have visited refugee camps you will realize that there are children filled with smiles. They come running towards you and you witness an illusion of happiness. You are somehow bemused and happy at the same time looking at the paradox that has presented itself before you. You take pictures that obfuscate a reality suppressed under those smiles. It can be a good picture in your house but that is just an illusion. Those are smiles of children with minds that have effaced dreams and imaginations. Their minds are very myopic on what they see as their future. Tomorrow is their future, not years to come.
Dreams and imaginations come when opportunities are available. Where opportunities are, most refugee children have strived because they understand that that is the only way out of their predicaments. Due to that there is a considerable educational success rate in refugee children.
However, in the absence of opportunities refugees children decide to give up. Pessimism and limited aspirations become a way to contain uncertainties. But sadly it blocks dream and imaginations. I usually say, “I don’t dream, I do what is necessary at present and hope it will take me to the next stage.” One of my professors said my philosophy was limiting. I understood his concern, because I developed my philosophy while living in the camp. I was uncertain about my future.
Creating an environment of dream and an imagination is the first stage of helping refugee children; presenting to them opportunities to be the Loung Ung, Gabriel Bol Deng, and Anh “Joseph” Caos of tomorrow. Refugee children need something they can believe in and resources such as libraries, advisors and school funding are the preliminary enablers for dreaming and imagining. But the most important thing is knowing that going to school is a mean to a fruitful end, because a refugee child realizes that it is not just routine school attendance, but is it a path to a better future. This could be done by providing refugee children with opportunities for post high school training and tertiary education. This are opportunities refugee children lack around the world.
It is only by giving hope through imagination and dreams, a refugee child can be given a future and that comes by the knowing that there are more rewards awaiting. Harry Kamp said, the poor man is not he who is without a cent, but he who is without a dream.”
About the Author:
William Hatungimana was born in Rwanda. He fled Rwanda with his family following the Genocide in 1994. He grew up in a refugee camp in Swaziland. After graduating from Mpaka High School, in Swaziland, he attended Waterford Kamhlaba UWCSA where he completed his International Baccalaureate Diploma in 2011. He went on to pursue a BA in the USA at Luther College where he recently graduated as a member of the Class of 2016; he will be pursuing a PhD in Political Science at the University of Kansas beginning August 2016. William’s interest is in the areas Comparative Politics and International Relation. He is active in discussing and reading about international politics. While at Waterford Kamhlaba UWCSA, William joined with classmates as one of the founders of the Malindza Refugee Education Initiative, a program designed to provide education for refugee children. At Luther College and Waterford Kamhlaba, he pursues a number of leadership roles including the Luther Student Senate-Culture and Religion Representative, Living Values Community Service Program Planner and an assistant coach in soccer. William plans to continue his involvement in children’s education with a special focus on refugee children, and in areas of armed conflict as well as communities in transition following the resolution of civil war and occupation.
Guest Authors Initiative:
The IIT Syrian student blog welcomes guest contributions from university students from Syria and around the globe. To learn more about the Guest Authors Initiative, please contact Suhaib at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suhaib was born in Kamishli, Syria, and earned his bachelor’s degree in December 2014 from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Armour College of Engineering, with earlier studies at Aleppo University and Damascus University. Suhaib majored in Civil Engineering with a concentration in structural engineering. Upon graduation, he accepted a position as a project engineer working on projects throughout the state of Illinois; he lives in Springfield, Illinois. Suhaib previously worked with Jasmine Baladi Studio, an NGO that works to support Syrian children in refugee camps in Turkey. Suhaib regularly writes for the Syrian Students for a Better Future Blog.