An Examination of Somali Parents’ Interaction with Public Schools: Complicating Family Diversity in Educational Contexts

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Wangari Gichiru


In this article I examine the experiences of recently immigrated Somali refugee families in their interaction with U.S. urban public schools where their children attend school. The experience of Somali refugees in the U.S. complicates the notion of family diversity, which goes beyond race, ethnicity, class and gender to include differences in family structures and processes as well. With increasing diversity in public schools, there is a need for the teaching community to develop dispositions and understandings that are inclusive of various dimensions of family diversity. Immigrant experiences in the U.S. combined with the specific context of Somali refugee immigrants adds a nuanced dimension of diversity, especially in educational contexts where families must interact with schools on a regular basis.  This study suggests that teachers must acquire knowledge of diversity among families and their complex, often changing structures and processes so that they can better understand and attend to the needs of Somali students.  

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