Pretoria – “Who is a refugee?” was the question that began an interactive learning experience for 83 learners at Hofmeyer High School in Attridgeville outside Pretoria.
Working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNIC organized a half day session on the rights and challenges faced by refugees as part of the Fridays at the United Nations (FUN Day) programme for schools.
In her introductory presentation, UNIC Librarian, Ms. Hope Kabamba gave an overview of the UN system including its structure, programmes and agencies.
Ms. Tina Ghelli, UNHCR Senior Regional External Relations Officer at UNHCR gave an insight into what makes a person a refugee. She spoke of the work being done by UNHCR both in South Africa and globally. She also
gave the examples of UNHCR partnerships with among others, the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa as well as several non-governmental organizations.
Using the 2008 xenophobic violence in South Africa, Ms. Ghelli emphasized the importance of tolerance, patience and understanding within communities.
UNHCR t-shirts and information packs prepared by the UNIC Library intern were distributed to learners and teachers.
A short film was then shown which narrated the lives of several refugees while highlighting both their challenges and their strength.
At the conclusion of the presentations, Mr. Scotch Mabhena UNIC Driver/Clerk, speaking in the local language of Tswana, encouraged the learners to learn more about refugees in their communities and to combat xenophobia.