Global Learning London

Refugees – Teacher Ideas

Activities: lesson plans, schemes of work and projects

Case study: Farhad’s Story

Share the following case study with your learners. A historic case study has been chosen on purpose, so learners’ minds are not clouded by current media coverage.

Farhad was a boy of 5 when the war in Afghanistan intensified in 1991.  His parents fled Afghanistan for Pakistan.  Farhad works as an office boy in a small computer shop.  He says:

‘I was very young when I came to Pakistan but I still have a vivid memory of our house in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. It had a big garden with apple trees and me and my cousins used to playing in it.  At that time I did not understand why we had to leave the house but later on understood that my father had decided to leave because of the constant battles. When I think about it, I am not sure whether my family or I would have been alive had my parents opted to stay back in Afghanistan. I still remember our first days in Peshawar in Pakistan. There were times when we did not have enough food to eat. Though my father started doing odd jobs, it seemed as if we never had enough money for our needs.  Back in Afghanistan I could not go to school because of the war. I did get to go to school for refugees children for almost a year when we moved to Islamabad.  Then we had to move back to Peshawar and that was the end of my school days.  Over the years I learned Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. I was also lucky enough to get a job in a factory that manufactured polythene bags. I used to work for 12 hours a day and earn 1500 Rupees (£16) per month, which I used to hand over to my mother.  I have also worked as a messenger boy and a waiter. There were times when my father did not have any work and the family depended solely on my meagre earnings. Three months ago I travelled to Kabul to find out whether the situation had improved so that we could return. I found it far from ideal. We no longer have our house in Kabul, which has been sold off. I know I will have to start my life all over again when I go back to my own country, if peace ever returns there.’ 

Ask learners to listen to Farhad’s story and then work in small groups to list three reasons why Farhad might want to stay in Pakistan and three reasons he may want to return to Afghanistan.

Should I stay or should I go?

Explain to learners that the most difficult decision potential refugees face is the one of whether to leave their home and risk everything in an unknown world or to stay put and carry on risking everything in a dangerous or unstable situation.  This presents huge dilemmas and there are no easy answers.  What helps people decide?

The things that help people make this life-changing decision are sometimes called ‘push’ and‘pull’ factors.  Exactly what these are depends on the context, but there are some common themes for refugees.

Ask learners to consider what kinds of problems might force people to leave their home. In pairs, ask them to write down as many reasons as they can on small pieces of paper or card. Ask pairs to show their answers to another pair. In fours, they should compile a larger list. They then should consider whether all reasons to leave are equally valid.  Explain these are known as ‘push’ factors.

Conduct the exercise again, only this time ask the learners to consider ‘pull’ factors – reasons why people would want to stay, despite the danger.

Display this chart and discuss any comparisons to their own ideas.

Push factors Pull factors
  • life in immediate danger
  • war
  • violent loss of home
  • assassination of close family member
  • received threats of harm or death
  • torture
  • political persecution
  • religious persecution
  • natural disasters
  • no rule of law
  • family ties
  • fear of the unknown
  • older family member unable to travel
  • ill health
  • wider current ties – home, job
  • the wish to stay and be part of the solution
  • being amongst ‘own people’
  • hope things will blow over or improve

What would you pack? 

Pack an over-flowing bag or small case with the following objects:

  • a family photo
  • a small amount of money
  • your passport or ID
  • a small supply of your favourite food
  • bank card
  • practical and warm clothes
  • 3 top fashion items of clothing
  • Laptop computer
  • A favourite book
  • A mobile phone
  • Address book
  • A blanket or sleeping bag
  • Photo album
  • Something your grandparents gave you
  • your religious book
  • an inflatable life jacket
  • a valuable piece of jewellery
  • anything else you consider vital

Unpack the case in front of the class and talk through each item and why it is important to you or may become important to your survival as you embark upon becoming a refugee.  You have been told that the bag is too full and too heavy, so you can’t take all the items you want to.  You have to choose the most important items that fit comfortably in the bag.

Working in small groups (4 – 6) the learners discuss, debate and negotiate the contents to be included and those to be left behind.

Once the negotiations are at an end, conduct a class discussion about the process.  Explain that refugees have to make these terrible choices, usually in a great hurry and often in a panic.  Compare the results of the different groups.  Are any of the items universally chosen?  Why? What about the ones left behind?  Discuss with the students the impact that having your precious possessions taken away from you might have.

For the duration of your project on refugees, you could keep the small case or bag displayed in a prominent place, as a reminder of this early understanding and to build empathy and commonality as this module of work unfolds.

Famous Refugees

Set a student-led research project to find out about famous refugees over the ages and what they have contributed to your local community and to your nation.  The list includes some surprising people: Rita Ora, Michael Marks (of Marks and Spencer), Alek Wek (supermodel), Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Omid Djalili, Joseph Conrad, Judith Kerr, Paul Hamlyn and Victor Hugo – the list goes on.  During their research project, ask learners to consider specifically the contribution made to this country by refugees.

Data: Myth or Fact? 

This activity is drawn from an article called 10 truths about Europe’s migrant crisis, published by Guardian On-line (see Resources and Web-links tab for full details).

Facts and reliable data have been either missing or mind-boggling over the recent media frenzy about the refugee crisis facing Europe.  This summary of facts and figures may be useful to share with your class and be a prompt for some interesting debates:

62% = the minimum estimation of the proportion of the migrants who are refugees.

1% = the proportion of migrants and refugees who have come to Europe in the past year who are at Calais.

0.027% = the proportion of Europe’s population who are migrants who arrived this year (200 000 migrants and European population of 740 million).

£36.95 = Asylum seeker weekly benefit in Britain (£56.62 in France and £35.21 in Germany)

187 = the number of Syrian refugees welcomed by the UK through legal mechanisms (correct at May 2015)

12M = the number of displaced Syrian people

-76, 439 = the fall in numbers of refugees in the UK since 2011.

Share the data above and ask learners to work in pairs to prepare a question for discussion.  You could use Philosophy 4 Children or circle time to discuss the resulting questions.