“I Belong to Nowhere”: Syrian Refugee Children’s Perspectives on School Integration

  • Yan Guo University of Calgary
  • Srabani Maitra University of Glasgow
  • Shibao Guo University of Calgary


Since 2011, the armed conflict that began in the Syrian Arab Republic has displaced an estimated 12 million Syrians, forcing them to seek refuge in various countries around the world. Over half of those uprooted are children. Education is key to integration of refugee children and is considered critical in bringing back a sense of normalcy, routine as well as emotional and social well-being in the lives of refugee children. In Canada, integration of Syrian refugee children in the public school system has, therefore, been identified as one of the vital aspects of their settlement needs. This article examines the challenges experienced by newly arrived Syrian refugee children as they struggle to integrate to the Canadian school system. We have conducted five focus groups with twelve Syrian refugee parents and eighteen Syrian refugee children between the age group of 10-14. Our research shows that Syrian refugee children not only find it difficult to make friends with local students but are also subjected to constant bullying and racism that affect their sense of belonging and connection. Making the views of these students explicit, we hope to provide a starting point for not only understanding their experiences in more detail, but also for developing educational strategies, resources and policies that might best meet the needs of these students and future refugee children and youth.

Author Biography

Yan Guo, University of Calgary
Yan Guo is Professor of Language and Literacy in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. She obtained her PhD in language and literacy education from the University of British Columbia. She teaches theory and practice in teaching English as an Additional Language (EAL) in both teacher education and graduate programs. Her research interests include critical pedagogy of language learning, English as an Additional Language (EAL), diversity in teacher education, immigrant parent engagement, transnational identities and translanguaging of immigrant and refugee children, language policy, and international education. Her recent publications appeared in Canadian Journal of Education, Language and Education, Intercultural Education, and Canadian Ethnic Studies (see http://ucalgary.ca/~yanguo ). Her edited book included Home-school relations: International perspectives (2018) and co-edited books Spotlight on China: Changes in education under China’s market economy (2016) and Spotlight on China: Chinese education in the globalized world (2016). She is currently co-editing two new book series, Transnational Migration and Education and Spotlight on China. She can be reached at yanguo@ucalgary.ca.