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  • Anna Brix Thomsen

Refugee Children as Casualities in the Global War for Profit. 97

I work as a native language teacher and my colleagues and I teach children who come from over 100 different countries. Some come from severely war-torn countries such as Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Others come from countries with various degrees of poverty, starvation and civil unrest, such as countries in the African region, South America and parts of Asia.

All across the world, families migrate from countries with dangerous and poor conditions to countries with higher living standards and stable infrastructures.

My colleagues often talk about the struggles the children (and parents) experience when immigrating to Sweden. Many of the children have nightmares from their experiences with war in their homeland; they talk about the dangerous and arduous journey they’ve taken before arriving in Sweden. Sometimes they’ve had to undergo terrible struggles involving fleeing from country to country or having to spend months and years in destitute refugee camps in desolate parts of the world.

Many children come with little to no school background, but even those who have gone to school have trouble using their experience and knowledge because when they migrate to a new country, they have to start over with the most basic language skills. In an extreme way, its like a reset button where nothing that existed before migrating to the new country is is valuable or relevant. That is also why so many immigrants desperately try to cling onto a little bit of their past lives, their culture and customs. Integration of immigrants in a new country’s culture is a complex and long process and many immigrants will have experienced having lived in a country for more than 20 years and still feeling like an outsider or being seen as an outsider by the native population. Immigration is therefore also not the one-size-fits-all solution to the global problems faced by so many countries, but I will discuss that in a moment.

Sweden is unique in that it is a country that has first language education for children on its state budget. What this means is that all children, all the way from kindergarten to high school, whose parents come from a different country have the opportunity to receive a weekly lesson in their first language and some even receive additional tutoring if they’re struggling to cope with the lessons taught in Swedish. So if a child is for example from Somalia and is having trouble in the Swedish-speaking chemistry classes, a Somalia teacher can come to the school and assist them specifically with chemistry or other subjects that they struggle with.

Sometimes the children come directly from war-torn Syria or other countries and are siphoned straight into the Swedish school system without having even the most basic language skills. Other times children even come unaccompanied by adults and the municipality the child arrive into initiates an apparatus of support with interpreters, accommodation and school.

Teachers who teach Swedish as a second language often represent the children’s first encounter with the Swedish school system and the ones I have talked to unanimously express how happy and excited the children are when they come to school. One teacher shared with me how the children who immigrate to Sweden have an entirely different drive and passion for going to school than most Swedish children; they are grateful. More than anyone, they know what it is like to go to bed scared and hungry and more than anyone, they know that life is not something to be taken for granted. If only adults knew the same. All over the world children go to bed beaten, starved, petrified that they might not see another day.

When my colleagues receive children from Syria that cannot sleep at night because they have nightmares about burning bodies, nightmares that comes from real events their little eyes should have never been witness to, we stand face to face with the consequences of the world we have created. But there is little we as teachers can do, besides doing everything in our power to provide those children with an education that ensures that they can grow up and make a real difference in the world. And that is after all quite a lot.

No child (or any person) should have to flee their home country due to famine, war or lack of resources or infrastructure, but because of the world we have created for ourselves on this planet, people are forced to migrate around the globe to seek for better lives for themselves and their children.

Immigrants in receiving countries are often looked at as a pest, a form of human infestation. More and more countries in Europe but also the US and Australia are becoming increasingly hostile towards immigrants and refugees and all along no one talks about the elephant in the room; the fact that these same countries contributed to and largely are responsible for creating the current situation.

Countries such as Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Mexico, Burma and Sudan where people are fleeing from, are not isolated from the rest of the world; it is all interconnected and economic interests in one country sets of a spiral of events in another, a fact that is largely ignored by the citizens of the countries that benefit from the riches.

We are happy as long as we can buy cheap clothes and purchase cheap oil while blissfully ignoring the chain of events that brought those cheap products into our lives. But when we come face to face with the people whose lives were destroyed so that ours could be safe and prosperous we ought to take a good long hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether it is worth it.

Whether we like it or not, the world is joined at the hip, however disjointed it it may be. We can’t escape each other and we can’t escape the mess that we’ve made for ourselves on this planet, and no matter how high we build fences to barricade ourselves from the hungry mob, we cannot escape the fact that this world exists as one interconnected system.

I am grateful that I get to meet people from countries such as Somalia, Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Iran on a daily basis, that I get to ask them questions, stare them in the eyes and shake their hands and see and feel that they are real people, real living human beings with skills and qualities and expressions that are unique and irreplaceable. Because otherwise it is easy to start looking at people at a distance and see them as numbers at best, and at worst, as nothing more than parasites.

I am continuously humbled by the resilience of my colleagues from war-torn countries; that they are able to go to work and teach children and I am humbled by the respect and perseverance that my Swedish colleagues put into receiving children from around the world, to not be invasive or dogmatic or normative, but to gently assist them to acclimatize to a new life, a life in a country that they would have preferred not to be in, but that they are grateful to be welcomed into nonetheless. Let’s not make them regret it.

For the sake of our children, because they are all our children – we ought to seriously consider choosing a different path than the one we are on at the moment, because it brings nothing but more death and destruction.

When we at the Equal Life Foundation talk about a Right to Life for all people, these are not just empty words that we speak in one instance, while in the next callously contribute to the death and destruction of thousands through our indirect actions. We are actually proposing a solution, an innovative way to solve the problem, by making small but significant adjustments in our political and economic systems. Each country will be able to implement this for themselves in a way that suits their particular needs, but through it we will also be able to help and assist each other on a global level, so that no one has to flee from war or famine or escape a life destined to be lived in poverty and squalor.

Imagine being a parent and having to send your child alone on a dangerous journey to a country halfway around the world, because you know that this is the best opportunity they have to survive. Imagine being a child having seen nothing but death, destruction and famine since the day you were born, having to flee across the world and coming to a country where you don’t understand the language only to be looked upon with fear and disdain. No one should have to experience that, ever. That is why my vote goes to a Living Income Guaranteed System and for the sake of all children, I hope yours does too.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of months ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:


Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century

The Story of Your Enslavement

On Advertisement and the end of the world:

Third World America – Chris Hedges

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order:

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