Geneva: Barely three fifths of child refugees are receiving a primary school education and the number who do not attend school has jumped by 500,000 in the past year to reach four million, the United Nations warned on Wednesday. “Education is a way to help children heal, but it is also key to rebuilding their countries,” said Filippo Grandi, the head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR. “Without education, the future of these children and their communities will be irrevocably damaged.”
Only 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, compared to 92 per cent of children globally, according to the UN’s new report ‘Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis’. And as children get older, this gap in opportunities between refugee children and their non-refugee peers widens, the report showed.
Just 23 per cent of refugee children are attending secondary school against 84 per cent worldwide. And only one per cent were enrolled in higher education, compared with 37 per cent globally. This figure has remained unchanged for the past three years, the report said, calling the gap at tertiary level “a chasm”.
Despite the efforts of governments, UNHCR and its partners, enrolment of refugee children in school was failing to keep pace with the growing refugee population, the report warns. Children made up over half (52 per cent) of the 25.4 million refugees registered worldwide by the end of 2017, and 7.4 million among them were of school age, the report said.
“Based on current patterns, unless urgent investment is undertaken, hundreds of thousands more children will join these disturbing statistics,” Grandi stated.
Attending school also played a vital role in helping refugee children find respite from the trauma of conflict and forced displacement and to re-adjust from this, Grandi underlined. “School is the first place in months or even years where refugee children find any normality,” Grandi said.
Education must be considered fundamental in responding to refugee emergencies, the report said. It called on host countries to enrol refugee children in national education systems all the way through primary and secondary school, so they gain recognised qualifications enabling them to enrol in university or higher vocational training.
Almost all school-age refugees (92 per cent) were living in countries in developing regions, the report noted, urging greater financial support from nations as well as action to ensure all child refugees get “the quality of education they deserve”. The report called for stronger partnerships with the private sector, humanitarian and development organisations and governments to increase “sustainable solutions for refugee education”.