Education is Breaking Down Cultural Barriers between Refugees and Host Nations

The Independent
Alternative Education
Forced Displacement - Refugees
Human Rights and Children's Rights - Right to Education
Vocational and Skills Training

Photojournalist Paddy Dowling travelled to Kuala Lumpur to discover the impact of a new alternative and holistic educational model being implemented in primary schools.

Fatima Sharif’s smile cuts through the bustle of diners as she serves coffee at Eat Dignity, the restaurant and vocational training facility at the Dignity School Foundation, in Kuala Lumpur. Fatima attends the school nestled in the heart of the city, one of 131 learning centres operated by UNHCR and Education Above All (EAA) to provide education for displaced children.

A refugee from Myanmar, Fatima explains that “some of my closest friends in school are from Chin and Rakhine states. It has been an amazing experience.” Malaysia hosts 167,000 refugees from 81 countries, and schools such as Dignity accommodate pupils from across 18 countries, promoting friendship and respect for each other’s culture and beliefs.

More than 9,400 refugee children from over 18 countries have already been able to attend school thanks to EAA. Yet, more than 6,000 refugee children of primary-school age are still unable to go. 

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, founder and chair of EAA, visited the Dignity school, retracing the footsteps of US president Barack Obama’s walk around in 2015. Speaking to The Independent, she said: “I believe that education is the most powerful tool for change and that every child has a right to it. We all have a responsibility to do our part to ensure that children are in classrooms."