The report “Stepping Up: Refugee Education in Crisis” by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, found that less than half of the 7.1 million refugee children of school age go to school. UNHCR calls upon national education systems to adapt a more flexible approach that provides inclusive access to education, which is sensitive to the situation of refugees.

According to the report, only 63 per cent of refugee children go to primary school, compared to 91 per cent globally. For secondary education the discrepancy is even more pronounced: While, globally, 84 per cent of adolescents get a secondary education, among refugees only 24 per cent receive that opportunity. UNHCR states that the steep decline in refugee enrolment between primary and secondary education is the direct result of lack of funding for refugee education, which leads to school shortages, oversubscribed classrooms and a lack of teachers. With hosting countries such as Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda, Iran, Mexico and Pakistan making significant progress, enrolment numbers on all levels have improved by 1-2% compared to last year.

Besides calling for an increase in funding by international donors and local authorities, UNHCR urges that refugees should be included in national education systems instead of unofficial parallel schools. Participation in a formal, recognized curriculum all the way through their school education will allow them to obtain the recognition necessary to pursue professional pathway or higher education. Currently, only 3 per cent of refugees can enjoy the opportunity of pursuing higher education, compared to the global average of 37 per cent.

The report also calls upon schools, universities and education ministries to adapt a more flexible approach to documentation. “Many refugees are barred from the classroom because they left behind exam and course certificates, as well as ID documents, when they fled their homes. Even when these documents are available, some host countries refuse to recognize certification issued in refugees’ country of origin”, finds the report.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi stressed the importance of providing refugee children with access to quality education: “We need to invest in refugee education or pay the price of a generation of children condemned to grow up unable to live independently, find work and be full contributors to their communities”.

About half of the world’s 25.9 million refugees, are under the age of 18, as of end 2018.


Photo: UNHCR

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.