The refugee crisis is one of the most significant issues of the modern era, so reason suggests we should all do our best to understand it, no matter our age.
Given the nature of the crisis, it may seem extreme to expose nine year old children to the subject. However, the complexity and breadth of the refugee situation means there are elements that they will benefit from learning about.
For example, a lot of children in Britain are seeing new classmates at school, many of whom have fled their homeland as refugees. This narrative has now been told in a new children’s novel by Onjali Q Rauf, who has spent the past three years volunteering in the refugee camps of northern France.
The Boy At The Back Of The Class tells the story of Ahmet, who has arrived in Britain as a refugee only to find himself alone in a new primary school. As the tale unfolds, friendships are formed and Ahmet’s loneliness fades away as his new friends help him search for his family.
While working in the camps, Rauf saw the dislocation and isolation that the refugees experienced. Yet she also saw something else; the determination to live a normal life, to laugh, play and find a way to a better situation despite enormous obstacles. To remain positive and, ultimately, to feel happy.
Speaking to the BBC, Rauf said:
“I think there should be a happy channel, where we have these stories being brought out to us because it needs to counteract what we’re seeing in the news, and all the depressing stories. We need to have the happy stories as well because that’s what’s keeping people alive, and that’s what’s keeping refugees alive.”
The Boy At The Back Of The Class is a story of understanding, kindness and empathy – values that are unquestionably important to instil in people, no matter how young they may be.