Let’s Work Together: educational sciences work together with asylum seekers

Submitted on Fri, 01/29/2016 - 10:53
Kaisu Hermanfors, Ritva Heinonen, Miia Collanus and Anja Heikkinen want to include asylum seekers in the instruction offered by the University.


The School of Education (EDU) is taking concrete steps to start working in support of asylum seekers. The purpose is to offer refugees meaningful activities that have a low threshold and offer opportunities to cooperate with Finns. The longer term goal is to develop these activities and make them an integral part of the School’s activities.

“The aim is to develop activities that we could eventually include in the Degree Programme in Educational Studies,” says Professor Anja Heikkinen.

A part of curricula in the future

The Let’s Work Together network at the School of Education started by convening a meeting of a large group of volunteers, asylum seekers and other actors. The aim of the first meeting was to learn about organisations that work to empower asylum seekers and to come up with ideas that can be incorporated in the curricula of the School of Education.

The speakers in the meeting included representatives of refugee reception centres, adult education centres and the Finnish Refugee Council. The participants also included employees and students of EDU as well as people from the Tampere Adult Education Centre, the other Schools of the University of Tampere, Open University, Paluu cooperative and a couple of asylum seekers.

“The situation with asylum seekers has radically escalated since last autumn and it has burdened authorities and organisations. It is high time we start coordinating the activities both qualitatively and quantitatively. The refugees need support in acute stress and inactivity, and this is where education and early education can help. We can also provide tools for empowering asylum seekers of different ages and family situations and offer them help with early education, organise studies for adolescents and adults, and help make them more active in working life,” says Heikkinen.

Educational institutions and organisations must first find coordinated forms of cooperation, which include flexible ways for achieving worthwhile existence even in temporary and unforeseen conditions. After the first meeting, the Let’s Work Together network started to mediate cooperation in refugee matters at the university.

Now is the time to act!

“We will start new courses and enable the participation of asylum seekers. We will also cooperate with organisations, day care centres, adult education institutions and vocational training. In our courses, we will discuss such questions as how people can participate in what is going on in the Finnish society,” Heikkinen continues.

The aim is to cooperate with organisations in liberal adult education. The first lecture in the Education, Work and Culture course taught by Professor Heikkinen is open to all. The lecture will also be recorded so that it can be broadcast later in refugee reception centres and other such places.

Teacher Ritva Heinonen and University Lecturer Kaisu Hermanfors will design early education activities. Heinonen’s Finnish as second language activities will invite families to participate and, later this spring, the pupils will be immersed in the world of puppet theatre, for example. Hermanfors’s students will organise a play day for children.

Miia Collanus, a university instructor in arts and crafts, is organising a course on textile arts. The participants are asylum seekers form a reception centre, and she will be assisted by three immigrants who have already stayed in Finland for a longer time and are currently studying at Tampere Adult Education Centre.

“The asylum seekers will join a group of students who specialise in teacher training in primary school. This spring, the theme of the course is place. Place, space, identity and all participants’ routes in life will be worked on textiles by using different surface manipulation techniques, such as embroidery or ecological dying, and we will use recycled materials at least in some of the things we will make,” Collanus says.

She hopes that each participant in the course will also find their own routes in the group without a shared language. The products of the course will be exhibited at EDU’s window gallery later this spring.

“Of course, I also hope that these activities with asylum seekers will continue!”

Text: Taina Repo