We all know that adult education is crucial for migrants but what about the people who react to the newly arrived with fear, rejection and/or hatred? Gina Ebner has some suggestions as to how adult learning can help the host community become more accepting.
We all know that adult education is crucial for migrants – the first step tends to be learning the language of the new country, and this is very often followed by employment-related learning.
But what about the host countries? What about the people who react to the newly arrived with fear, rejection and/or hatred? Can adult education help combat anti-migrant sentiments and xenophobia? Based on my own experience, there are a number of ways how adult education organisations tackle this issue:
This could be workshops and lectures about the countries where migrants come from, the positive impact of migration, ‘myth-busting’ of fears and rumours concerning migration, the reasons and causes of migration and refugee flows.
There is again a wide range of activities that are possible – meeting opportunities through intercultural cafes, bringing groups with similar interests together across backgrounds (e.g. mothers), setting up mentoring schemes between newcomers and volunteers of the host communities (Canada, for example, has a very well developed language learning scheme that trains mentors for language learning).
There are a number of initiatives that train representatives of newcomers that will then serve as multipliers. The Muslim study association Ibn Rushd in Sweden ran a project like that – young Muslims would go to schools and associations to answer questions. In Germany, similar approaches are taking place with (young) refugees who serve as multipliers in the so-called ‘politische Bildung’ (political education).
Teaching civic competences
There are a number of possibilities to learn and train civic competences. There is an excellent German word – Zivilcourage – which means standing up for your beliefs and speaking up when you witness something that you think is unjust. There are possibilities to prepare your arguments, role-play possible situations and practice your civic courage.
Bridge building with other organisations
A number of adult education organisations extend the range of their work by seeking cooperation with self-organised migrant organisations. Another possibility are NGOs dedicated to fighting racism and discrimination (for a European example, have a look at the European Network Against Racism).
I know of few examples that directly target people with anti-migrant attitudes. They often overlap with or are provided by other local services or politicians (different forms of citizens dialogues, for example). And in a way it is not surprising – it is not the role of adult education to convince people ideologically. What adult education can do is to provide information and facts rather than rumours and false facts, to bring people together and to enable the empowerment of everyone.
Having said that, adult education still needs to do more in this area – find the best examples in combatting xenophobia through adult education and upscale them and build our capacity in this area. We can also work more closely with youth organisations, migrants and human rights associations who often have a lot of experience in anti-racist and anti-discrimination work. We can apply the methodologies that adult education has been using and developing (Paulo Freire might again be the reference to start with).
Let us know what your experiences are, either in the comments below or during our online discussion on 31 May 2018!
Gina Ebner is the Secretary-General of the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) and also EPALE's Thematic Coordinator for Learner Support.