Migration and Parent Involvement: Ethiopian Immigrants in Chicago
ABSTRACT My study examines the experiences and perceptions of Ethiopian immigrants in Chicago particularly as they relate to their involvement in their children’s schooling. Through narrative interviews I was able to hear stories of migration, education, and life changes within families as they emigrated from Ethiopia and (eventually) settled in the US. Migration, conditioned by political contexts at home, circumstances of mobility, and available support structures, is translated into life experiences that are infused with emotion (of various sorts), hardship (and various strategies to understand it and deal with it), an evolving vision of life in the US, and a changing sense of identity. Transitioning to life in the US is experienced as a paradox: reconciling expectations vs. reality, confusion in the way they raise their kids (as Ethiopians or Americans), and other issues related to cultural change arise as one navigates the long-term migration process. The participants were deprived of a full education in Ethiopia because of the brutality of the regime; this experience has motivated them to provide their children the best educational experiences they can. At the same time, cultural and language barriers create misunderstandings among immigrant parents and American schools. I interviewed seven Ethiopian parents for my study—three women and four men. These parents have been sending their children to American schools. They support their children in their educations based on their Ethiopian cultural values and beliefs which they also want to pass onto their children. Their Ethiopian approaches to parental involvement are not always recognized by American schools, yet their approaches evolve as they spend more time in the US.