York University hosts Borderless Higher Education for Refugees authors’ workshop

From May 3 to 5, a workshop funded by Global Affairs Canada was organized at York University to bring together authors who will contribute to an edited volume tentatively titled “Borderless university education in Dadaab, Kenya: Theory and Practice.”

Attendees at the workshop gathered for a group photo
The BEHR workshop participants came to York University from the far reaches of the world

The workshop, organized by York University Professor Emerita Wenona Giles of the Centre for Refugee Studies and the Department of Anthropology, and Johanna Reynolds, York PhD student in geography, brought together 33 participants, all of whom have been involved in the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project in some way. Those attending the workshop included instructors, administrators, researchers, students and funders. They came from Canada, the United States, Kenya and Europe to discuss their contributions to the book. Among the student participants were York graduate students who have worked as TAs and researchers for the BHER project and other administrators and instructors from the University of British Columbia, York University, Kenyatta and Moi universities, and Windle International Kenya.

Giles, along with Don Dippo, University Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University, and former BEHR project manager Aida Orgocka, initiated the workshop and book concept. (Dippo and Orgocka have been with the BHER project since it was first funded in 2010.)

Attendees at the workshop
Workshop participants discuss the book concept, which defines higher education as increasingly recognized as crucial for the livelihoods of marginalized populations such as refugees, migrants and other stigmatized groups

Briefly, the book concept defines higher education as increasingly recognized as crucial for the livelihoods of marginalized populations such as refugees, migrants and other stigmatized groups, to enable them to engage in contemporary, knowledge-based global society. “When we first began to develop the BHER project, higher education for refugees claimed little attention,” says Giles. “We entered a space of underfunded education initiatives in protracted humanitarian contexts, with primary education featuring high in humanitarian appeals and limited attention to education in general in the policy context.”

The book will provide evidence that global North-South educational partnerships can work and do produce good results for both the South and North when the participating institutions are prepared to struggle through the challenges of structural inequalities imposed by funding agencies, cultural and pedagogical differences at the institutional levels, and technological deficits in course delivery, among other issues. The contributors to this book also demonstrate that universities can be development actors and papers by emerging refugee scholars, who have begun to participate in and contribute to new knowledge about forced migration as they achieve their undergraduate and graduate degrees, are part of the book. “Our methodological approach in this book is unique, as the contributors have all been involved in some way in the research, administration, teaching and learning, leading to the design, the development and implementation of the BHER project over (almost) a decade, from 2010 to 2019,” says Dippo, who is the current BHER project lead.

In addition to Global Affairs Canada, the authors’ workshop received support from the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University.

To learn more about the BHER project, visit bher.org.