Teacher solidarity with refugees spreads through schools

Teachers, educators, aides, translators and administrative staff in over 70 schools across Australia have come together to say refugees should be studying in our schools and educational institutions instead of languishing in offshore camps.

After the High Court threw out the challenge to detention on Nauru, Teachers for Refugees initiated the “Teachers say #LetThemStay” action. Group photos and “selfies” of teachers holding signs demanding that Malcolm Turnbull “let them stay” and “close the camps” were taken and uploaded to social media. Now the movement has also spread to universities and other workplaces.

“I am so proud to work at a school with so many wonderful people who are not afraid to speak up about the atrocious and illegal treatment of people seeking refuge in our country,” said Nicky Jackson, teacher at Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre.

But teachers are acting because the government is making schools a battleground. In November last year teachers from Yeronga State High School took strike action to demand justice for Year 12 student Mojgan Shamsalipoor. Just a few months away from finishing her HSC, Mojgan was forcibly moved from Brisbane to Darwin detention centre.

In December Teachers for Refugees organised 26 schools to take photos demanding “education not detention” on Human Rights Day.

Manus Island asylum seekers responded to the hundreds of photos posted by Teachers for Refugees saying, “There are many teachers among us and we need you to tell the truth for us, about the Manus Island hell, to the Australian government and to all the people, that we should be free.”

In my school teachers have become politicised around the growing wave of support for refugees. The “Let Them Stay” campaign at Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre has seen more teachers actively organising and promoting the action, more teachers that were convinced to take part and more teachers sick of the billions of dollars going towards imprisoning vulnerable people instead of our schools.

While last time our slogan was “welcome refugees”, this time we demanded that we “close the camps”.

By Matt Meagher

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