Access, inclusion, belonging: Perceptions of post-secondary refugee-background students
van Niekerk, Gerschen
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Access, inclusion, and belonging: Perceptions of post-secondary refugee-background students in New Zealand is a small-scale qualitative study that interpreted the lived experiences of four post-secondary refugee-background students who attended schools in New Zealand, and are now in their 20’s. The impetus for this research lies within a recommendation for further study made by Strauss and Smedley (2009) who found that current research on how to better support refugee-background students who are attending schools in New Zealand did not make provision for these students to share their experiences. Their conclusion thus challenged the assumption that if a group of students were not provided with an opportunity to contribute to discussions regarding their wellbeing, it may perpetuate experiences of marginalisation and trauma. Subsequently, this research wanted to address this assumption by accessing via the researcher’s personal networks post-secondary students, who would like consent to the opportunity for them to ‘speak on their own behalf’. The research suggests using an ecological systems theory so that schools understand the interconnectedness of the refugee-background students’ trans-migratory experiences and the way they would perceive and respond to education. More so, these students’ conceptual understanding of access, inclusion and belonging are grounded in their experiences. For this reason, teachers must adopt a caring and culturally responsive stance, to elicit their prior knowledge and experiences so that they can build trust and realign their teaching pedagogy to support refugee-background students. Using existing contextualised community partnership programs, which may include the home-school partnerships, or social clubs may help to further develop a community of learning.