Yugoslavian Refugee Children in Canadian Schools: The Role of Transformative Leadership in Overcoming the Social, Psychological, and Academic Barriers to Successful Integration
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In Canada, there have been limited studies focusing on refugee children from war-torn countries and their transition to Canadian schools. Even less documentation exists about refugee children from the former Yugoslavia. Using a transformative cross-cultural leadership lens, this study explores the barriers and challenges refugee children from former Yugoslavia faced as they transitioned to the Canadian educational system, as well as strategies children and their teachers used to ease this transition. This study is a systematic literature review that is also informed by the researcher’s refugee narrative. In this paper, I argue that there is limited literature concerning former Yugoslavian (e.g. Bosnian, Croatian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Serbian, and Slovenian) refugee children who migrated to Canada between 1995 and 2015. Exploring the challenges and effective strategies used in easing this transition for former Yugoslavian refugee youth can facilitate the integration of Syrian refugee children currently entering Canadian schools. While cultural backgrounds and experiences of Syrian and former Yugoslavian refugee children differ, language barriers, lack of support, and lack of refugee children-related policies in the Canadian schools remain universal challenges for all refugee students. Based on this literature review, I identified the challenges encountered by Yugoslavian refugee children in the Canadian classroom and presented individual strategies teachers used while working with this group of children. This paper contributes to the debates on how to effectively address the ‘sink or swim’ phenomenon many former Yugoslavian children experienced while demonstrating that the transformative cross-cultural leadership approach can be a powerful strategy in integrating refugee students’ in schools and societies.