August 29, 2018

Over half of the world's 7.4m refugee children are out of school

Eight-year-old Shihnaz with her school bag, lap desk and notebook, provided by Educate a Child. She is a grade 3 student at a UNHCR-funded primary school for girls in Khazana refugee village on the edge of Peshawar, Pakistan. She said: “I want to be a teacher when I grow up. It’s important for children to learn so that they can become teachers and doctors.”

Photo credit: UNICEF / A. Shahzdad

Half a million refugees were enrolled in school last year - but the number excluded from education still rose dramatically because of growing humanitarian crises.

More than half the world's school-age refugees are excluded from education as host nations struggle under the weight of growing humanitarian crises, the United Nations said today.

Four million refugee children around the world do not attend school, an increase of half a million from a year earlier, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said in a report.

"Education is a way to help young people heal but it is also the way to revive entire countries," said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

"Based on current patterns, unless urgent investment is undertaken, hundreds of thousands more children will join these disturbing statistics."

The UNHCR said there were nearly 20 million refugees under its mandate, which excludes about five million Palestinian refugees, by the end of 2017 as the number of displaced people worldwide grew.

More than half were children and 7.4 million were of school age.

Rohingya refugee children at a learning centre in Kutupalong settlement, one of the camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

Photo credit: UNHCR / Adam Dean

Only 61% of refugee children attend primary school, compared to more than 90% of all children, said the report Turn the Tide.

The figure is even lower for older children, with less than one in four secondary-age refugees in school. Just 1% attend higher education, compared with more than a third of young people globally.

More than 500,000 refugee children were newly enrolled in school last year. But the rapidly growing refugee population means the proportion missing out on education has not shrunk.

Katherine Begley, a senior technical advisor for education at humanitarian agency Care USA, said schooling was a vital step in helping refugee families rebuild their lives.

"Education protects and education empowers," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"It provides opportunities to cultivate friendships and supports work to establish a routine that children who are coming out of traumatic circumstances need as quickly as possible."

Watch how a gifted Lebanese refugee has ended up teaching his classmates

What little education is available is often in poorly constructed temporary shelters or in the open air.

Social and cultural conventions mean girls are especially likely to miss out - a major concern, said Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, senior advocate for women and girls.

"We need to break this cycle by reducing the barriers to schooling," she said. "Less education increases vulnerabilities to forced marriage, exploitation, and even trafficking in refugee contexts."

To address the problem, the UNHCR said refugees should be enrolled in mainstream schools rather than specially created ones, offered extra support, and barriers to enrolment such as requirements for identity documents should be removed.

The #YouPromised campaign

In February 2016 world leaders promised to get every Syrian refugee into school in host countries. But almost 700,000 children in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are still not getting an education.

Theirworld has campaigned for the promise to be kept. Our #YouPromised campaign - backed by thousands of our supporters - helped to get education high on the agenda at the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region conference in April this year. 

Magician Dynamo made a powerful film about the plight of Syrian refugee children he visited in Lebanon. The video 72 Hours was viewed over six million times.

The film was shown at the conference in Brussels and Dynamo also took with him 70,000 calls for action from Theirworld's campaign and a social media campaign that has reached more than 150 million people worldwide.

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