All Refugee Children Have the Right to an Education

Posted on: November 8th, 2016 by

Approximately 3.7 million of the world’s refugee children are currently not in school. While all children have a right to an education, refugee children are five times less likely to have access to a basic education than their peers. As a result, these children – who face constant threats to their physical and emotional health – fail to obtain the critical knowledge and skills necessary to thrive now and in the future. World leaders must act immediately to provide the funding and resources necessary to expand educational opportunities to all refugee children.

In September, the United States hosted a global Leaders’ Summit to devise a comprehensive strategy to address the needs of nearly 20 million refugees displaced worldwide. Fifty-two countries and international organizations pledged to increase humanitarian aid, double refugee resettlement efforts, and improve access to education for 1 million refugee children around the world. This plan involves efforts to increase refugee’s school enrollment, improve teacher training, and to develop extensive educational programing in 17 host countries. Although the proposed strategy is a crucial step towards addressing the current refugee crisis, it falls short of reaching over 2 million refugee children currently lacking access to school.

Of the 21.3 million refugees worldwide, it is estimated that more than half are children. Refugee children are particularly vulnerable because they have been forced to flee their home country due to fear of persecution, war, and/or violence and, in many cases, depend on the host nation to provide basic supports and services. Many live in unstable conditions and have experienced trauma as a result of their exposure to violence, loss, and disruptions of their basic needs. Moreover, refugee children are especially vulnerable to mistreatment and exploitation both throughout their journey and after they arrive at a host country.

Although international law recognizes education as a human right, millions of refugee children lack access to schools and other educational resources. According to UNHCR, only 50% of refugee children enroll in primary school, 22 percent enroll in secondary school, and only 1% attend university. According to a recent U.N. report, the population of school age refugee children grew 30 percent in 2014. Massive floods of incoming refugee children have placed increased strain on already struggling host countries and NGO’s to provide adequate educational services that meet all children’s needs. Classroom spaces are limited, and resources are scarce. Further, teachers and schools may lack the necessary training to teach and support students who may not speak the language of instruction, are lagging behind academically, and/or have experienced trauma and have related social, emotional, and physical needs that impede learning.

For countless vulnerable refugee children worldwide, education is one of the few avenues available to transcend dire circumstances. School provides a safe and stable environment where refugee children can build strong networks of support and gain crucial skills needed to continue their education, and to obtain future employment. Education not only prepares refugee children to succeed, but also reduces the chances of child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and other forms of exploitation and abuse.

Considering the alarming number of refugee children out of school worldwide, a far-reaching plan is needed to ensure that all refugee children have access to education. While the proposed plan provides humanitarian funding and refugee resettlement, it fails to meet the educational needs of over two million refugee children around the world. What is needed is a more comprehensive and intentional strategy that seeks to improve access to for all refugee children. The Education Cannot Wait campaign is the first global fund to bridge humanitarian aid and education development to ensure all children affected by crisis have access to education. By utilizing collaborative innovation and funding, the campaign seeks to reach 75 million  of the world’s displaced children. The Education Cannot Wait campaign provides an essential framework for ensuring that all refugee children are afforded the right an education, and provided with knowledge and skills they need to thrive.

For more information about the access to education for refugee children and ways to get involved, we encourage to you to contact the following organizations:

World Relief

Refugee One

Girl Forward

Human Right Watch

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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