Migrant children experiences of school: A case study of Iranian children in Trondheim, Norway
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Children’s experiences of migration are largely shaped by their experiences of schools in the host society. The present study aims to explore experiences of 15 Iranian immigrant children between the ages of 8-18 living in Trondheim, Norway. More specifically the study seeks to address challenges and difficulties that children face in the host country’s schools, the factors posing such challenges, and the ways that the children negotiated their everyday lives at school. The social studies of children and childhood, and structuration theory have provided a theoretical framework based on which this study has been conducted. Given this, an attempt has been made to recognize children as active agents in their experiences of migration, as well as a social group influenced and restricted by the structural conditions surrounding them. Furthermore, the study tries to explore the experiences of migrant children from the perspective of inclusion\ exclusion. This is a child-focus research, hence, a qualitative research approach, particularly, the ethnography method is used in the process of data collection. Consequently, participant observations, focus group discussion, and in depth semi-structured interviews have been chosen to capture the school experiences of the individuals in detail. The study has found that the feeling of the exclusion has been the most common challenge faced by the participants. Such a feeling has been aroused due to a variety of reasons, such as feeling of isolation on arrival, experiences of bullying or peer rejection, experiences with being stereotyped, and separation from peers due to taking mother tongue classes. Furthermore, the findings of the study have highlighted three underlying factors behind inclusion/ exclusion experiences of the migrant children that can be grouped as effects of un/familiarity with the host language, role of the parents, and the role of the teachers and the schools. Comparing three different types of schools in Trondheim, it was concluded that the schools with large number of migrant children are more successful in absorption and inclusion of their pupils. Study findings also confirm the importance of friendships on the migrant children’s experiences of school. Having intimate relationships enable children to cope better with their challenges and difficulties. In addition, playing and games as means of communication mediator have crucial roles in establishing friendly relations among migrant children, and thus their better inclusion and adjustment to the new situation.