Educational aspirations and experiences of refugee-background African youth in Australia: A case study

Year: 2018

Author: Molla, Tebeje

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While the number of African refugees settling in Australia has significantly increased since the mid-1990s, social integration of the youth remains a critical challenge. The problem of African youth disenfranchisement is in part linked with lack of access to social opportunities such as higher education (HE). Guided by structural accounts of inequality and a capability approach to social justice, this paper reports on a case study of educational aspirations and experiences of two groups of refugee-background African youth (RAY) in Melbourne: those who have transitioned to HE; and those who have not transitioned to HE after completing high school. The findings show that: (a) RAY share a firm belief in the value of HE; (b) but they are differently positioned to convert opportunities into achievements – e.g. only the refugee youth with enhanced navigational capacity take advantage of the available flexible pathways to HE; (c) the stress of racism pervades educational experiences of both groups; and (d) the second group has shown a considerable level of resilience in that, despite the challenges of racism, a history of disrupted educational trajectories and a lack of scholarly resources at home, RAY have transitioned to, and thrived in, HE. In light of these findings, the paper draws some implications for equity policies and practices.