Last year approximately 3900 unaccompanied refugee children seeking asylum came to Sweden. As well as having endured long and often times traumatic journeys, their introduction to Swedish society in general — and the Swedish school system in particular — is often very challenging, putting even more strain on the child’s sense of security and well-being. It can be difficult for teachers and for fellow pupils and students to understand and identify with their situation and the traumatic experiences that have shaped many of these refugee children’s lives.
By telling a few of these children’s stories in a clear, inspiring and engaging way we aim to open up for dialogue about diversity, about people’s different backgrounds and equal worth. We want to encourage a curious attitude towards each other’s differences and promote dialogue about topics concerning identity, creating a sense of belonging, and promoting mutual respect.
Friends works to combat and prevent bullying and the violation of children’s rights in Swedish schools. Together with UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, we’ve put together campaign material that is intended for pupils and class teachers in secondary schools in Sweden (years 7-9). The campaign aims to act as a catalyst and tool to help create a safe and inclusive environment in school, where there is respect for equality, and for all children’s backgrounds and stories.
The Aim of the Campaign
This project aims to prevent prejudice and alienation by challenging negative attitudes and increasing awareness and understanding of cultural differences, not only relating to unaccompanied refugee children, but all people who have been forced to flee their home country. Our hope is that this project will lead to a safer environment for all students and adults in Swedish schools — an environment free from harassment and alienation.
Campaign Content and Material
Theatre Performance and Lecture
The production is written and directed by Shebly Niavarani, who is of Iranian origin, and is currently employed by one of Stockholm’s leading theatre scenes, Stockholms Stadsteater. He is well known in Sweden, both as an actor in popular Swedish movies and TV-shows, and as an award-winning director. Niavarani’s production addresses issues such as alienation, finding identity in a new group setting, and not only being the new kid in school but also a refugee. It also covers themes concerning dual-nationality and multiple cultural identities, as well as the basic need every child has to be themselves, regardless of their background. The accompanying lecture is held by a well-trained and skilled lecturer from Friends and delves deeper into subjects raised in the monologue.
Material for Teachers
The teaching material has been developed by Friends, in collaboration with representatives from The Living History Forum (a Swedish agency aiming to create public awareness about crimes against humanity, in order to promote tolerance, democracy, and human rights) and UNHCR. Throughout the process, the material has been developed drawing on input from a focus group made up of teachers and principals, as well as educators from Friends. We have also involved a focus group of secondary school pupils who have provided us with input and valuable pointers. The material has been thoroughly checked by quality controllers from Friends and UNHCR, resulting in what we believe to be thorough, comprehensible, and high quality teaching material.
Narratives - Why Flee?
“Hello Sweden” has also worked together with a Swedish public service TV station to produce a prize-winning TV-series called “Unaccompanied Refugee Children”, which is available on the website as part of the campaign material.
For You as a Parent
Several reports and writings have been used in the preparatory research for developing the project material.