Question: Dr. Leitch, could you please tell about your background and how is it connected with the issues related to migration and human trafficking that you taught for students of the Academy of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Bishkek?
Dr. Leitch: I have a PhD in Adult Education and International Development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For most of my working life, my teaching, research and writing has focused on vulnerable and challenging youth. My experiences have included teaching teenagers with emotional, behavioral and trauma issues in the United States, trying to understand how to de-institutionalize orphans and children with disabilities in Russia, researching prison-to-community transition programs for youth in Latvia, and learning about the inclusion challenges for people with disabilities in Ukraine.
Since 2006, I have focused my research and writing on migration and how it affects children, youth, and families. My inquiries have led me to study “left-behind” children in ethnic-minority regions of China as well as the effects of after-school programs on the well-being of rural children who migrate with their parents to the major cities. In 2016, with the help of a generous DAAD grant, I was able to interact with refugees in Germany while learning more about social integration programs.
Question: Dr. Daniel Leitch, you successfully collaborated with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to facilitate the Migration and Human Trafficking Course taught at the OSCE Academy. What is the Course about and who is it meant for? How did you find your first experience of teaching in Central Asia?
Dr. Leitch: The issues of migration, smuggling of migrants and human trafficking have attracted the attention of Governments, NGOs, International Organizations, the media as well as academia. While this attention tends to provoke vivid discussions in political circles, social networks and other media platforms, there is little solid understanding of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, the difference between them and their implications. This course on migration, trafficking in persons, and the smuggling of migrants is taught for young people from Central Asia and Afghanistan who are students of the OSCE Academy Master’s Program on Politics and Security and provides them with a practically oriented, though still theoretically grounded, foundation on these topics.
Given the considerable safety risks posed by trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants and the related need to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable, the course relies heavily on a legal approach, acknowledging the importance of clarifying concepts and employing rigorous terminology. This notwithstanding, the course is also grounded in a multidisciplinary methodology, recognizing that the complexity of trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling phenomena extends beyond the legal realm. Consequently, a comprehensive understanding of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants is not possible without the convergence of various disciplines, expertise and perspectives, including historical, economic, social, political, and gender prisms, which were all considered in developing the course.
I found the OSCE Academy students simply delightful! They displayed so many positive attributes. The students were highly motivated, determined to get the most out of their scholarships, and passionate about the field of Politics and Security. Not only did they possess strong analytical ability, but the students were also practically grounded. During our daily conversations, I found them remarkably engaged and their questions deeply insightful. However, what impressed me the most were the kind, gracious, appreciative, and sincere notes that I received at the end of class. This to me, revealed the true character of these outstanding individuals.
Question: UNODC’s Education for Justice (E4J) University Module Series on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants provided a tool for shaping this Course, which was provided online due to the global pandemic. How helpful were the University Module Series to you as the Course Instructor in organizing and delivering the Course? How the Course had to be taught online during the COVID-19 pandemic raging globally at this time?
Dr. Leitch: I felt as if I had discovered a goldmine! I was delighted that UNODC generously made such rigorous, evidence-based, comprehensive materials, developed by a team of world-class experts, available to tertiary instructors. The modules contained theoretically grounded best practices combined with practical case studies, instructor notes, videos, assessments, and a wealth of supplement reading materials. Since I was teaching a short course, and it was online, I had to select, adapt, and modify the materials. I also added some of my own materials on trauma informed practice. Overall, the materials were extremely helpful.
I was able to use readily available technology to help facilitate the Course and delivery it online. To get the ball rolling, I found my colleague, Ms. Raushan Bolotalieva, UNODC National Program Coordinator, using the professional networking tool, LinkedIn. Our communication happened through Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, while the course was hosted by the learning management system, Google Classroom. Although technology was important, the human element served a more vital role. The project’s success hinged upon the collaborators always working together in good faith.
Question: Drawing from this experience of building the Migration and Human Trafficking Course on the mentioned UNODC’s Education for Justice (E4J) University Modules on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants, would you recommend educational institutions like the OSCE Academy to incorporate these modules on a systemic basis into its existing Migration and Human Trafficking Course?
Dr. Leitch: Yes, absolutely I would recommend these materials. However, because the world and the research base change rapidly the materials should be updated regularly. Also, I recommend a feedback loop be developed between the instructors and material developers so that the materials are constantly evaluated and improved. Finally, the courses should be flexible so that instructors may enrich the modules with their areas of expertise.