Education, migration equations, Kurdish teenagers and injera

On Tuesday, before I got sick and drifted into a coma-like state for two days, I had a really great evening.

It started out at the launch of a report by the Refugee Support Network (RSN), the charity that I’m volunteering with this year, which has researched the barriers facing young asylum seekers and refugees as they seek to access higher education in the UK. RSN believes that education helps young people gain some hope for the future, wherever that future is played out. For me it’s not about abstract yoof: it’s about the people I got to know over several years in Oxford and it’s about the Afghan teenager I now mentor each week and who mistakenly seems to think he can bribe me into doing his homework if he buys me coffee. Think again, mate. But it’s a welcome weekly change from migration theory. Hanging out with a 17 year old, chatting about life and doing some ESOL, is a nice dose of normality after trying to get my head around all this reading.

(Incidentally, I am chuckling to myself about the article I just read entitled: Bogus Refugees? The Determinants of Asylum Migration to Western Europe. It makes me laugh because it has taken all the push-pull factors, the economics, the politics, the conflicts etc, and drawn them into the following equation: yit = a þ b1X 5 k¼2 yiðt_kÞ þ b2xit þX T_1 j¼1 gjDj þ eit; where eit = ui þ vit: ð1Þ. From the results of this piece of maths, the article has concluded that the determinants are complex and manifold. Wowsers.)

But there was more to Tuesday evening than that. My good friend Jenny was on the panel, representing Student Action for Refugees where she now works. Jenny was a brilliant volunteer at the youth group I headed up in Oxford, and we had many a great conversation last year over a glass of wine or a mug of  chai as she did her masters in Forced Migration. We could – in fact, we still do – natter for hours about immigration policy, Kurdish teenagers, politics, work, the voluntary sector, academia, life, living overseas, London, friends, Leonardo da Vinci, everything in fact. She recently sent me this link to an article she’s written on the politics of belonging in Britain. Go and read it! Seeing her thriving, being enthusiastic, writing, advocating and making a difference makes me a really proud friend.

From the launch of the report, I went on to join my coursemates in the back of beyond somewhere north of Kings Cross to indulge in Ethiopian food. My essay on multiculturalism is giving me angst about the ethics and deeper meaning of being a white woman in a cosmopolitan city eating foreign food.  But I’ll put that to one side. Tuesday night was just about tucking into injera, enjoying eating with my hands and hanging out with friends.

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