Assadullah examines the literacy and language practices of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. His study will document the beliefs/perceptions of literacy and language held by Afghan families. In addition, he will be documenting the literacy & language events that children and adults engage in at home, in the community, and at school.
Most refugees resettled in North America and Europe come from countries neighbouring their conflict affected country, rather than their country of origin (Dryden-Peterson, 2016). However, there is a lack of literature on "where or if refugees find education" (Uptin et al. 2013, p. 603 ) in these countries. The educational experiences of refugees in their first asylum country remain a void or a "black box" (Dryden-Peterson, 2016). In light of these gaps, this study focuses on “one of the largest and longest displaced populations in the world” (UNHCR, 2015, P. 3) to understand the language and literacy practices of low-income Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. It seeks to understand the language and literacy practices as occurring in the homes, community, and school settings of Afghan refugees in order to shed light on the literacy and language practices of a population that has largely been invisible in the scholarly community.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
Public scholar to me means that you take your research and do something more with it, rather than just keeping it within the scholarly community. It pushes one to question their research and their identity as a scholar, by asking “So what?" and "What are you going to do with this research to give back to the public?” Being a public scholar reminds me that I am privileged and that the merit of my research will depend on the service it contributes to the public. Thus, It is a deeply honorable position to be in.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
First and foremost, with the Public Scholars Initiative, the PhD experience not only becomes fruitful, but also a meaningful one. To me, The Public Scholars Initiative, is like a mentor that keeps reminding me that my work is important and needs to be done. While, the PhD journey can be lonely and at times, stressful, the PSI helps make it all the worthwhile—that alone is more than I can ask for.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
I believe the work I am engaged in as part of my PhD can be meaningfully connected to career possibilities in the future. For example, I plan to collaborate with the Afghan refugee families that attend the school (that will be part of my study) after completing my PhD. The overall goal of such collaboration would be to help identify more specific barriers that Afghan refugee families and children face when accessing education. Furthermore, I hope to work with local nonprofit organization in Afghanistan, Pakistan and abroad in terms of analyzing their literacy curriculum with a keen focus on what “funds of knowledge” the curriculum incorporates from the Afghan families households. I also hope to find a position in an academia where I can focus on conducting further research and work directly with teachers to help support the literacy practices of refugees and students from low-income communities.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
My research hopes to provide some glimpses of the literacy and language practices that Afghan refugee families engage in three settings (home, school, community). Although there has always been in an interest-from political figures to educators, in terms of "improving" Afghanistan's and Afghan refugee's literacy, no research has been done to look at what literacy and language practices Afghan refugees already engage in. Afghans, in general, have been viewed as literacy impoverished, and in need of literacy. My study hopes to challenge these misconceptions, but also interests other researchers to study Afghan refugees’ educational trajectories.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I want to make a difference and getting a PhD will help me in that endeavor. I have always believed in the power of education, and although education has been used, in part, to uphold inequality, I believe it can also be used to push for equality. As scholars and educators we have a duty to push for change, inspire others, and bring difficult questions to the table in order to make a difference.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
I decided to study at UBC primarily because research does not take place in a vacuum here. My advisors’ (Drs. Jim Anderson and Marianne McTavish) research, focused on the literacy practices of refugees and immigrants, convinced me that I would benefit from working and learning from them. Their continued support and guidance in the PhD program reminds me every day that I have made the right decision to study at UBC.
I have always believed in the power of education, and although education has been used, in part, to uphold inequality, I believe it can also be used to push for equality. As scholars and educators we have a duty to push for change, inspire others, and bring difficult questions to the table in order to make a difference.