Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Rezai-Rashti, Goli


This study focused on Syrian refugee mothers’ experiences in transitioning their children to new school systems in Ontario, Canada. In 2015, the Canadian government committed to resettling 25000 Syrian refugees and processing higher numbers of refugee claims in the years following. Despite the increased number of refugees in Canada, there has been limited attention to perspectives of mothers in relation to transitioning children to the Canadian education system (Brewer, 2016). As well, the intersection at which all aspects of this study are situated in—refugees, motherhood, school transitions, and social and cultural capital—lacked scholarly attention. Drawing on Bourdieu’s (1990) theory of social and cultural capital and Griffith and Smith’s (2005) theory of mothering for schooling, this study investigated the experiences that refugee mothers had with transitioning their children to school while taking into account the broader landscape of resettlement in Canada. This study used critical ethnography (Madison, 2005) to interrupt dominant discourses in the research process by empowering participants and using research in a way that benefits those who are “othered”. Data was gathered from interviews with refugee mothers, community personnel, and settlement personnel. As well, document analysis and observational notes were collected from an Ontario Early Years centre program intended for refugee parents who were transitioning their children to school. Findings related to refugee mothers revealed that their experiences in transitioning their children to school were tied up in their gender, race, social class, and refugee status and were influenced by the social and cultural capital they each possessed. Furthermore, the findings in this study revealed inequities in refugee resettlement as they relate to national, provincial, and local policies. Findings suggest that educational policy pertaining to refugees would benefit from being mindful of the complexity in the relationship between social capital, cultural capital, gender, and refugee experience.