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Lesson plans for ages 9-11 in Language & Literature: Refugee Children Recount their Experiences

Teaching Tools, 18 February 2007

© Photo courtesy of Japan for UNHCR
Schooling gives refugee children and their parents hope for the future.

INTRODUCTION

Myths, legends and folktales provide a rich heritage of beliefs and traditions which have been passed on from one generation to the next; they hold a special place in all cultures. However, the stories often were not written down, but were passed on as part of an oral tradition.

Kakuma refugee camp, which is run by UNHCR, is situated in the north west region of Kenya. In the early 1990s, Kakuma was home to 47,500 refugees, including 15,600 children from Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. For these children, Kakuma was the end of a long trek from persecution and danger in their own countries. Many had suffered horrifying experiences: even seeing their close ones arrested or killed, often suffering from hunger and thirst during their journey of flight, and witnessing their fellow refugees die from hunger, thirst and disease.

Most of the children arrived at Kakuma with almost nothing but their memories of the recent unhappy past, but also memories of their happier past in their own countries, amid their friends and families. They shared some of their memories and their imagination with a UNHCR worker, Sybella Wilkes, telling her stories and fairy tales and painting illustrations to accompany their stories. These stories and pictures were collected and published in One day we had to run!

Children from every part of the world, from every social and economic stratum love to hear and tell stories and fairy tales. This unit of lessons revolves around three of the stories told to Ms Wilkes by refugee children. As the students work through the lessons, they will have the opportunity to practise their writing and grammatical skills while at the same time sharing the common joy of story-telling.

Resource

Sybella Wilkes, One day we had to run! (London, Evans Brothers, 1994), the stories and illustrations "Tit for tat", p. 22-23; "The party", p. 25-26 and "The deaf man and the blind man", p. 42-43.

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