Mosaik +UEL: University Partnerships Providing Tools for Student-Led Learning
In 2019, the University of East London (UEL), through its internationally leading Centre for Research on Refugees, Migration and Belonging and Centre for Narrative Research’s (CNR) collaborated with Mosaik Education on a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) funded project.
The Mosaik partnership exemplified the long-standing learning and teaching experience of UEL as an innovative hub for supporting refugees’ access to higher education and promoting forced migrants’ economic, social and cultural rights more broadly. The course built upon UEL’s award winning Life Stories Higher Education Work in Calais, which offered short university courses on ‘Life Stories’ with residents at the Jungle refugee camp in Calais and it’s current 10 week OLive Higher Education Access course for asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.
Together, UEL and Mosaik co-created a digital e-learning project that applied Life Stories are a research and pedagogical tool for and with refugees across the Syrian response. This involved creating a life stories research training programme for Mosaik’s student ambassadors, the team of refugee and host-community students across Jordan and Lebanon that co-leads Dardachat, Mosaik’s peer-to-peer content creation project. This training included online interactive workshops on Education in displacement, Research ethics and digital storytelling methods facilitated by PhD and undergraduate students complimented by in depth lectures on Gender, Psycho-social Support (PSS) and Narrative Research by Senior Lecturer Afaf Jabiri and Professors Corinne Squires and Giorgia Dona from the CNR and the Centre for Research on Migration Refugees and Belonging.
Students ambassadors were supported with the skills to conduct their own education research amongst their peers and decide upon the best method of storytelling online. During the online course, students explored different methods of creating, developing and sharing education stories on Dardachat, in addition to facilitating meet-ups in Jordan and Lebanon on student selected topics such as gender and PSS.
Batoul, a Student Ambassador in Beirut shares her reflections on the UEL-Mosaik partnership
Q. Describe in your own words how the UEL sessions went (gender education, PSS, narrative stories)
Before the sessions began I had many concerns about how an “online session” might work. Gladly the sessions were very interactive and well organized to the point we felt no language or screen barrier. Everyone asked many questions freely and discussed points that made our knowledge about the topics stronger. Jessica was a very good session leader as she kept on asking us questions and giving us tasks to apply our knowledge on.
Q. What were your three key learnings from all three sessions?
I’ve got the chance to learn a lot from every single session, but there are 3 key learnings that I gained from the most. First, I was capable of viewing gender issues from a different perspective especially for refugees. The Gender session, facilitated by Dr. Afaf Jabiri,will help me in the future to face gender obstacles differently while helping others. Second, it made me realize the importance of the mental health of a refugee or any person, to rebuild them socially and emerge them in communities as effective individuals rather than victims. Finally, narrative stories sessions helped me change my way of creating content to the facebook page more professionally by taking into consideration many factors such as post formats and the elements of interviews for creating credible content
Q. What do you think was the value of talking about psychosocial support?
To me, the value of psychosocial support is that it empowers rather than it sympathizes. By providing psychosocial support to those who need it, we help them achieve or even peruse their goals after war or mental battles. It guides them to overcome barriers in their new or current communities which can have a positive impact on their families and friends as well.
Q. How were you able to apply what you learned in the psychosocial support session to the work you do at Dardachat?
I was able to apply what I learned in PSS in my content and meet-ups. I always posted resilience stories that talked about people with struggles overcoming them to achieve their educational dreams as we always offered content about the importance of improving your well-being. Such content had the most engagements on our page which makes me feel content about how it might motivate others. Secondly, during our meet-ups, we always chose topics that would help attendees feel more effective and get more introduced to the several opportunities they have even as refugees. We always suggest volunteering as a way to emerge in new surroundings, gain connections, and acquire new skills which all help in providing psychosocial support.
Rose, a Student Ambassador in Jordan, reflects on the three PSS in-person meet-ups that stemmed from the UEL x Mosaik Partnership
Q. Before Mosaik, what was your experience with psychosocial support?
I studied a psychosocial support course and I worked as a Youth Programs Coordinator for three years. I was working with refugees, children, adults and old people to give them psychosocial support to reach higher education and give them hope in life through meetups, yoga, and different activities.
Q. Why was this an issue you were interested in talking about?
When I came here I was thinking all the time about a way that I can help myself and other people and I noticed that people cannot return to their natural life because they lost hope in life so I started studying and working in psychosocial support.
Q. In your own words, what is your role in the partnership with JRS in delivering these meetups?
In my role as a student ambassador, I prepare for meetups, discuss it with my team, share my ideas which are related to the students, prepare the materials, collect attendance. I also am responsible for booking a suitable place, presenting my ideas to students and giving feedback.
Q. Why do you think having these meetups is important?
To increase awareness, give students support to reach higher education and give them some strategies, solutions and share the valuable opportunities which can help them.
Q. Tell us about the last meet up, how did it go?
It was good with some difficulties! We called the meet up “ I Can “. It was about psychosocial support to reach higher education. The first part was with Dr.Dalia and the second part was led by me. I talk about some opportunities that help students to reach higher education and we discussed issues such as “ if I have an idea to study how can I work on it? “. We also explored some strategies that help with the study also about time management. We finished with questions and answers.
Q. What benefit do you think these meetups have for those who attend?
I think these meetups give them more power that pushes them toward their goals and lets them know about valuable opportunities. Like our facebook page Dardashat, meet ups also to share their experience and information.
Academia and non-governmental organisations, along with other stakeholders have a key role to play in supporting displaced young’s higher education journey. These partnerships are critical if we are to address the woefully low number of refugee students accessing higher education. Using digital media and online e-learning, the project used an innovative narrative Life Stories methodology as a research and pedagogical tool to empower student leaders in supporting peers in their communities to access higher education opportunities. UEL and Mosaik’s partnership offers insights into adopting a refugee and student-led collaborative participatory action research project. In 2020, we’ll be exploring further opportunities for collaboration. Other universities and non-governmental organisations should consider doing the same.