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Accepted Paper:

Adult Refugee Education in Northern Ireland: Physical Learning and the Persistence of the Digital Divide  
Morgan Mattingly (Queen's University Belfast)

Paper short abstract:

The education of refugees and asylum seekers globally is a constantly moving target as new journeys are undertaken in the hopes of better opportunities, less precarity, and safety from persecution. It is often assumed that once in a distant resettlement country refugees and asylum seekers will have their educational needs met; however, they are caught between definitions of refugee rights, national and devolved policies, and educational fulfilment in everyday life.

Paper long abstract:

In Northern Ireland (NI), a region complicated by historical and continuing tensions relating to the UK and the Republic of Ireland, refugees and asylum seekers continue to be in a precarious situation. BREXIT (or the UK leaving the EU economic region) has renewed political tensions in NI, causing instability in the NI Assembly leadership. Consequently, the NI Assembly has been suspended twice -- delaying refugee related actions. Furthermore, though education is a devolved power to the NI Assembly and its ministries, refugees and asylum seeker related policies are also impacted by the UK Home Office. Unlike other devolved regions, NI does not have a Refugee Integration Strategy (though a draft is currently being consulted on). The extent to which this will alter provision of refugee and asylum seeker education resources remains to be seen. The delays in education access for asylum seeker children caused by devolution is well-documented. However, the impact on the education of refugee or asylum seeker young people and adults is under-reported. Though language skills are a recognized need few accredited English language school options exist for young people and adults in NI, while religious or charity volunteer supported classes are prevalent In the current global Covid-19 pandemic options for education are further complicated by reliance on technology. Digital solutions are increasingly utilized for education in crisis; however, for refugees and asylum seekers who may not have devices or internet connectivity this can be problematic. Even in NI, where electricity is stable, the digital divide persists. From mid-2020 to December 2020 I was a volunteer for a charity-conceived English language class for adult refugee and asylum seekers in NI. In this presentation I will provide an auto-ethnographic description of how technology could and could not be applied in and outside the classroom to supplement lessons. I will demonstrate the ways in which the digital divide persists for refugees and asylum seekers in NI and the disadvantages caused by limited educational access.


Digital divide, refugee and asylum seeker, adult education, Northern Ireland

Panel P26a
Education and Mobility Today: Integrating Digital and Visual Technology with Physical Learning
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 June, 2022, -