Amala (formerly Sky School)
UWCSEA supports transformational education for refugee youth
From Syria to South Sudan to Myanmar and beyond, the plight of refugees continues to demand attention as one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time. The numbers are daunting, with the UN estimating there are 65.6 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide. Among them are 22.5 million refugees, 50% of whom are under 18. The resulting educational needs are staggering: only 9% of refugees in low income countries are able to complete secondary education, and across all refugees a mere 1% go on to higher education.
In 2016, two UWC alumnae and then staff at UWC International, Polly Akhurst (UWC Atlantic College ’06) and Mia Eskelund Pedersen (UWC Mahindra College ’07), began learning more about the tremendous gap in secondary education for young refugees. During the global UWC Congress in October that year, they heard the UWC Syria National Committee’s story of having to turn away more than 300 UWC scholarship applicants annually. With UWC educators, alumni, volunteers, and staff from around the world gathered in one place, Polly and Mia began talking with people about how it might be possible to address the secondary education needs of refugees.
A serendipitous meeting with UWCSEA East’s then Director of Teaching and Learning, Stuart MacAlpine, offered hope. When Polly and Mia asked him about whether he thought it might be possible to develop a secondary curriculum for refugee and displaced youth, Stuart quickly responded “yes”. UWCSEA’s multi-year curriculum articulation project and ongoing research had yielded both a robust K–12 concept-based curriculum and rich expertise in curriculum development among our educators. As one of UWCSEA’s curriculum experts, Stuart knew it was in fact possible to devise a tailored curriculum to meet the particular learning and community needs of young refugees.
Out of Mia and Polly’s passion and vision and these early conversations, Amala was born. Stuart served as the organisation’s pro bono Director of Education, leading the development of the curriculum and modules for a full 1,000-hour High School Diploma.
Additional UWCSEA community members joined the cause as well, with numerous teachers volunteering to support curriculum development and ongoing student-led initiatives on each campus.