Weathering the Storm: How African Families with Refugee Backgrounds Coped with Online Schooling during the 2020-2021 COVID-19 Pandemic

Researchers: Stacey Wilson-Forsberg1, Oliver Masakure1, Jeremey Horne2 and Rosemary Kimani-Dupuis1
Affiliation: Wilfrid Laurier University1 and Adventure 4 Change (A4C)2
Research Partner: Adventure4Change A4C
Keywords: mothers with refugee backgrounds, youth with refugee backgrounds, Horn of Africa, online schooling, COVID-19 pandemic, Southern Ontario
Jump to: Methodology, Findings


Overview: This study focused on the experiences and challenges of mothers with refugee backgrounds from the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea) and their adolescent children (ages 12-18) as they attended high school online during the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Objective: to understand how families with refugee backgrounds are coping with the challenges associated with COVID-19, particularly online schooling and the loss of access to important services; to connect families virtually with Adventure4Change’s (A4C’s) resources; and to build A4C’s capacity to respond in a coordinated and caring way to future lockdowns.

Research Justification: In Waterloo, Ontario, a number of refugee youth and parents rely on Adventure4Change (A4C) for tutoring, after-school programming, and creating a bridge between parents and school administrators. With online schooling and disruption of face-to-face delivery of services due to COVID-19, refugee families are facing increased stress and challenges. Mothers are unable to help with their children’s schoolwork due to limited English language skills and a limited understanding of the Canadian education system, resulting in stress and anxiety. By connecting with these families virtually during the Covid-19 quarantine A4C can continue to engage and encourage youth and parents. Information collected through this project will build A4C’s capacity to respond to lockdowns in future waves of the virus.


This study conducted interviews and focus groups with ten women and eighteen youth residing in Waterloo, Ontario.  This study used e-technology, phone conversations, and in-person interviews to connect with teens and parents. The research team trained two refugee high school students to lead online discussions with other refugee youth, who shared their experiences during isolation. Researchers and A4C staff provided counselling to youth and parents.


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