History Repeats Itself, Finding Liberation through Education

Diya Khanna
Freelance Journalist with a focus on diversity, integration & migration
Canada

As we sit around the table, my father in law reaches over and hands me some homemade yoghurt to have with my biryani. CNN is on and we are listening to one of the many issues Donald Trump has decided to tackle during the first 100 days of his US presidency. We are quiet and in that moment my father in law decides to share the story of how him and tens of thousands of other Ismailis fled Uganda in 1972, when President Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of asians, leaving them homeless and possessionless as refugees.

I sit back and prepare to listen to a tale I’ve heard many times before. But this time the story has a surprisingly different impact. Maybe it was the news in the background, or the stark relevancy to what is happening in our world today, but I realize that what my father in law is sharing is a story that many people will tell their own children 40 years from now. It is commonly said that history repeats itself and “those that cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. What we are going through, we have been through already and the challenges we face are challenges we promised ourselves we would never come face to face with again.

Throughout history, we have seen the displacement of Jews, Belgians, Serbians, Armenians, Palestinians, Afghanis, Rwandans, Sudanese, Iraqi’s, Columbians and Syrians. For Ismailis fleeing Uganda, the experience was uncertain, threatening and terrifying. Many of them moved to Canada, India and the UK. As they settled into their new countries and began to plant their roots, one thing began to crystallize and that was the importance of education.

Education as the majority of us know it, is about gaining skills to secure a future. But what many migrants also know is that it has an intrinsic value that nobody can take away from you. It is about social justice to fight for equity, freedom to move easily, liberty to express yourself and knowledge to think critically. It is about fighting against racism and for differences in gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, language, ability and religion.

It’s about being able to stand for causes that our generation and generations past have faced and about preventing human beings from making the same mistakes over and over again. GAPS and other organizations are focused on this goal of educational access. The work we do is about building a foundation for something greater and grander, on both a human scale and a global scale. It is a mission that transcends this day and days beyond. It is about the power to leverage a mind in a way that can never be taken away from you.

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