Education as healing: Addressing the trauma of displacement through social and emotional learning

Policy Paper 38


Date of publication:  01 Apr 2019 Publisher:  Unesco Publication type:  Legal / Policy Framework

According to UNESCO`s policy paper published this April the experience of refugees around the world having to leave their homes and country behind and depart on a dangerous journey to the unknown is a traumatic experience. Children are especially vulnerable in those situations, having to face uncertainty, insecurity, family separation, violence, death. The hostile environment in the countries of arrival can further exacerbate their vulnerabilities. As a result, this can have "long-lasting physical, emotional and cognitive effects" on children. The UNESCO`s Policy paper explains why children are particularly vulnerable in those situations, due to the different stage of their cognitive development, the effects of stress on child`s brain and overall development as well as offers examples of interventions for schools to address the situation. The document explores the role of teachers and the challenges teachers are facing in such circumstances, as well as the role of a wider ecosystem, including parents. Practical recommendations include:

  • Ensuring learning environments must be safe, nurturing and responsive
  • Providing teachers with adequate training
  • Implement psychosocial interventions in cooperation with education, health and social protection services
  • Adapt social and emotional learning interventions to the context and make sure those are culturally sensitive
  • Provide social and emotional learning interventions as extracurricular activities for students in need 
  • Involve partners and the wider community.



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