Schools must fight racism to become inclusive

Schools must fight racism to become inclusive
While schools have focused on creating inclusive environments, they need to identify, address and overcome racism to be truly inclusive.

This is the finding of a newly-published paper by University of South Australia’s Dr Melanie Baak, in the International Journal of Inclusive Education, focusing on the experiences of South Sudanese refugee students.

Through her research, Dr Baak interviewed students about their experiences of schooling in Africa and Australia. Almost all participants spontaneously discussed experiences of racism from peers and teachers.

This included students being called ‘n**ger’, and being told ‘F*** off, black bitches,’ and ‘Go back to your country.’

“The resettlement of South Sudanese refugees into Australia since 2000 has created a visibly different minority group within our community,” Dr Baak said.

“And while Australia is widely a successful multicultural society, it is a society in which race plays a strong part. Schools need to identify, address and overcome racism to be truly inclusive spaces.”

Young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds experience racism at far greater rates that those from other backgrounds.

“Bullying and racial discrimination in schools can lead to long-term psychological issues, and we need to make sure that we are averting these issues for refugee students before they arise,” Dr Baak said.

“In situations where racism isn’t addressed adequately, children who are in the process of forming their sense of belonging feel devalued.”

Rather than just making a commitment to being inclusive, the most successful support for refugee students occurs when schools look to be proactively addressing exclusion and ‘othering’ of migrant and refugee students.

“Schools need to create communities where a sense of belonging is fostered through a commitment to tolerating and respecting differences,” Dr Baak said.

“Schools provide an opportunity to give new arrivals a real sense of belonging, and this sense of belonging can spill into the broader community.”

Related stories:
Race lessons coming to preschools
Principal responds to racism claim