“I Never Want to Lose That Key”: on school as an opportunity structure for unaccompanied refugee children in Sweden



In recent years, a large number of refugee children have arrived in Sweden. In this article, 15 Afghan boys tell us about their normative longing for education and schooling (should), their experiences of school as an opportunity structure (being) and the resilience of their personal agency as regards succeeding in school (doing). Our empirical data indicate that, particularly thanks to the efforts of many individual teachers, the boys’ should, being and doing are connected and relatively strong. Nevertheless, school as an opportunity structure also entails challenges: an overly one-sided concentration on the Swedish language as well as frequent absence of multilingual classroom assistants, native language instruction, and inclusion. At the same time, the boys long for and work hard to achieve school success. Strong resilience is not individual, however; it works in connection with a preserved should and a strongly developed, activating being.


Newly arrived studentsUnaccompanied refugee childrenScaffoldingSchool opportunity structureSchool achievement
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 10 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 69-86
  • DOI: 10.2478/njmr-2019-0027
  • Published on 1 Mar 2020
  • Peer Reviewed