How learning is a lifeline for refugee children

How learning is a lifeline for refugee children

How learning is a lifeline for refugee children

Posted 18 March 2016, 15:10 AEDT

The life of a refugee is often described as a life in limbo but thanks to support from Australian sources, a refugee-run school is providing education and hope for a community of refugees in Indonesia.

The Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre (CRLC) is refugee-run school supported by the Australian non-profit Cisarua Learning Inc. Established in August 2014, the school has grown to play a vital role for a community of refugees who are unable to access employment or go to Indonesian schools.  The school has six classrooms, and over 100 students.  Here are some of their stories:

Arzoo and her brother Omid
Arzoo and her brother Omid. (Photo: Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre)
Arzoo and her brother Omid. (Photo: Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre)

"My name is Arzoo, I am 12 years old from Afghanistan but I was born in Pakistan. My family returned to Afghanistan when I was eight years old and I studied there for two years. Around eighteen months ago, my family came to Jakarta, Indonesia and it was a very hard time for me. I had no friends and I was anxious because I was missing my studies as I was not at school.

"I was thinking to myself, are there schools that I can attend here in Indonesia? When my family moved to Bogor, we found out there was a school I could attend. My brother Omid and I were enlisted on the waiting list for six weeks. I used to see students from the window of my home, with smiles on their faces and bags on their backs walking to school. I wanted to be enrolled in this school as soon as possible!

"Luckily, my brother and I did not have to wait too long and today I am student of Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre. My teachers are kind, motivated and hard working. They teach me English and my favourite subjects are mathematics and science.

"When I started school, I was unable to communicate with Australian visitors as I was not confident with my English. They brought us so many books for our library and I have read many of them which helped me improve my English skills. Now I can speak, write and read English well, I am very thankful to our supporters, and our teachers for providing good quality education.

"I am also very thankful to my mum and my dad who help me with my studies.

I want to be a scientist in the future and invent new things that will help my country, or become an artist so I can paint pictures which express the pain and feelings of those experiencing war, such as my people in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Other than school, I love playing football or soccer as I know it is called in Australia! I play football once a week with my lovely teachers and after our games, I love eating Ashak, Hazaragi food which my mum makes for me and my brother."

Sahel with his father
Sahel and his father. (Photo: Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre).
Sahel and his father. (Photo: Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre).

"We are living in Cisarua away from his mother and the rest of the family. My eyes are always towards Sahel. I am a mother and a father for him.

"Everyday I drop him to the Learning Centre and wait until he finishes. Our refugee journey is very hard but Sahel gives me energy. The other day he got an award from his teacher and he was very happy and so was I. While waiting for Sahel I take books from the library and read.

We are like best friends. In the afternoon we go for walks. At night time we play wrestling and I let him win all the time. He takes my leg and counts to three and then he becomes very happy when he wins. This is how we spend our time and he slowly goes to sleep.

"He asks a lot of questions and I always try to answer it. But he repeatedly asks me the same question: 'When will our passport come so I can go and see mum?' I am ready to do everything for him to be happy and get education. My dream is to see Sahel as an educated person in the future."

Ahmad Basir Zaffari Tofan. (Photo: Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre)
Ahmad Basir Zaffari Tofan. (Photo: Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre)

"I am Ahmad Basir Zaffari Tofan and I am 15 years old. I was born in Afghanistan in 2001. My life is passing like waves of an ocean. I feel like my life is a shipwreck destroyed by a bad thunderstorm, its pieces departing in different sections.

"My family was forced to flee my home Afghanistan. We migrated in Quetta, Pakistan when I was eight years old. It was difficult at the beginning but I tried to adjust and develop a new sense of self. But as I was getting used to it, ethnic targeting ripened where we were living. Again with no way back to Afghanistan, my family fled to Indonesia.

My family and I are placed in darkness. We do not know what will happen to us.

"At the beginning, it was difficult for me as the youngest child of the family, as I did not have friends to play with. I was missing my friends in Pakistan. But after a while I found CRLC. I was very excited.

"My name was put on the waiting list. After a year I got the opportunity to be a student again. Now I have a lot of friends and am enjoying holding my books again. I am happy that I found the opportunity to not just study, but also play football.

"I am inspired by [Afghan political leader] Abdul Ali Mazari. I hope to study politics and become a leader in the future."

Asma. (Photo: Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre)
Asma. (Photo: Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre)

"I am Asma. I am a student at Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre. I got some education in my country Afghanistan before my family fled.

"When we came to Indonesia, I had no friends. It was a hard life. My life changed when I enrolled here. My two elder sisters and younger brother are also students here. I am happy that I study now. I have good teachers and they teach me in English. I am working hard to improve my English. My teachers, sisters and parents help me to study.

"Since I came to learning centre, I am glad that I met with many Australian people. I am very happy when I talk to them because they are so nice. When they come to my learning centre, it gives me hope.

I want to become a teacher in future. I want to teach other children and give them education, the way I get here.

These stories were collected and shared by Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre with permission.

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