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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Schools Have Critical Role to Play in Supporting Adolescents Fleeing Armed Conflict

Communities in high income countries continue to receive record-setting numbers of newcomers fleeing armed conflict. Although education is known to be highly important for refugee children, relatively little is known about the diversity of school-based programs and their value in supporting the children there. A paper co-authored by Dr. Michael Wessells, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health professor in the Program on Forced Migration and Health, reviewed 20 school-based programs aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of adolescent forced migrants from 2000- 2019. Dr. Wessells and colleagues found school-based interventions have great potential for preventing adverse mental health outcomes among girls and boys affected by armed conflict and displacement.

“Our review showed that despite recurring challenges, many girls and boys manage to adjust to their new lives,” noted Dr. Wessells. “Up to now, there was little in the literature on how school-based programs for refugees actually achieve holistic support for the children and enable educators and families to navigate the complexities associated with their movement to high income countries.”

The review provides a more comprehensive picture of the school-based approaches.

Findings include:

“These programs showcase the abilities of schools to identify and monitor student needs, provide or connect with holistic supports to enable continuity of care,” said Dr. Wessells, who noted that partnerships were central to most elements of the programs reviewed.

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