The educational experiences of young refugees in Bangkok, Komtouch Napattaloong – Hours of Ours Film Documentary. 

In this seminar, Dr Rebecca Warren explored the educational experiences, needs and aspirations of young refugees living in extended exile in Bangkok, Thailand. The aim of her research, which took place between 2016-2020, was to elicit and document the perspectives of young refugees, in order to inform educational policy and programming in Bangkok and the wider region. 

An ethnographically inspired method was used, using diary data, semi-structured individual and focus group interviews, and two visual narrative projects. The methodology demonstrated the value of an ethnographically inspired approach in seeking child-friendly, context-driven and culturally responsive solutions to issues facing marginalized populations. The research data and its subsequent analysis indicated a significant need for alternatives to be developed for young refugees living in extended exile, who were unable to access mainstream school due to financial and legal restrictions; age, language and cultural barriers; and curriculums inappropriate to their needs, backgrounds and aspirations. 

In addition, the research highlighted a conflict between policy and practice in Thailand, showing how international, top-down policies, espousing access to school for young refugees, migrants and other non-citizen children, need to be more efficiently monitored and effectively implemented; ensuring not just the right to school, but also to a quality education that is relevant to needs and backgrounds, and provides opportunities for a meaningful future. Schools, organisations and initiatives addressing these solutions must be more adequately supported, and less restricted in their efforts, actions and advocacy. 

The theories of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum were used to create a capability framework of recommendations for refugee education in Bangkok that addressed these needs; were culturally responsive and relevant to an urban refugee context; and built on the experiences, perspectives, and aspirations expressed by the young research participants living in extended exile in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Komtouch Napattaloong is a visual artist and film-maker from Bangkok, Thailand. His previous short films include MOTHERLAND (2015, Austin Film Festival, LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Salento International Film Festival etc.) and a Cuban short film EL CIELO made during the ‘filming in Cuba with Abbas Kiarostami’ workshop in 2016. Komtouch has received support from Princess Maha Chakri Sirindorn Anthropology Centre, Purin Pictures, and the Tan Ean Kian Foundation-SGIFF Southeast Asian Documentary (SEA-DOC) Grant for his debut feature documentary HOURS OF OURS. In this film, a young Sudanese family flees their country and arrives in Bangkok to seek asylum. They meet a young Thai film-maker who has just returned home after a decade abroad. Despite the uncertain future facing the family, they form a deep connection and decide to make a film together. HOURS OF OURS follows the Ibrahim family’s journey as they navigate the challenges of living in an indefinite transitory state while they wait for approval to be resettled in Canada. 

Drawings and writing depicting a story

Photo credit: Rebecca Warren

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