No more excuses. Provide education to all forcibly displaced people

By the GEM Report and the UNHCR Education Section

Days before the World Humanitarian Summit, we have jointly released a new policy paper, ‘No more excuses’, with new data showing that only 50% of refugee children are in primary school and 25% of refugee adolescents are in secondary school.

As people gather for one of the biggest ever summits on humanitarian needs, we are calling for all those forcibly displaced to have access to quality education within three months of displacement. Countries and their humanitarian and development partners must urgently ensure that those forcibly displaced are included in national education plans and programmes and to collect better data to monitor their education status and progress.

What data there are show that, behind the global average number of refugee children out of school, there are significant differences among countries. Primary enrolment rates average 80% in selected refugee sites in Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Yemen but only 40% in Pakistan and 50% in Ethiopia.

Access to secondary education is even more limited for refugees in many countries. In 2014, in Kenya, Pakistan and Bangladesh, less than 5% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 were enrolled in secondary education. Enrolment in early childhood education also remains very limited in some countries, reaching only 7% in Turkey in 2015.

UNESCO infoGRAPHIC ON REFUGEE CHILDREN (1)There is no doubt that collecting information on moving populations is challenging, if not impossible sometimes. What little we know is mostly about those living in camps, yet almost two thirds of the world’s refugees reside outside of camps, largely in urban areas, where even less is known because information systems aren’t tracking them. Countries must monitor these children and youth when they enter national systems so we know who they are, how they are progressing and whether we’re effectively responding to their needs.

From select available data outside of camps coming from Ministries, we can see that of school-aged Syrian refugees only 53% in Jordan and 30% in Turkey are enrolled in school.

Reliable data on internally displaced people (IDPs) are even more limited, but reports from the International Organization for Migration and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre indicate that their displacement is putting huge strain on already weak education systems.

unhcr imageIn Nigeria, for instance, children displaced due to attacks by Boko Haram in 19 out of the 42 camps did not have access to any form of education in June 2015. In Iraq, only 32% of internally displaced children and adolescents in 2015 had access to any form of education.  In Yemen, only one third of school age IDP children in Lahj governorate were enrolled in school.

Those already marginalised, such as girls, are often the worst affected among refugees. In Kakuma camps in Kenya, in 2015 only 38% of primary school students were girls. In Pakistan, where child marriage and teenage pregnancy are often cited among refugee girls, dropout rates for refugee girls are as high as 90%.

Girls and women make up 70% of the world’s internally displaced population and are left the furthest behind in education. In Iraq, in Najaf governorate 81% of 15-17 year-old girls were out of school compared to 69% of boys of the same age. In urban areas in Afghanistan only 1% of IDP women were found to be literate versus 20% of IDP men.

Education is essential for all children and especially so for refugee children who have already lost so much. Our joint findings lead to four main policy directions for governments and their partners:

  1. Enshrine forcibly displaced people’s rights to education in national laws and policy
  2. Include displaced children and youth in national education systems
  3. Enable accelerated and flexible education options to meet diverse needs
  4. Ensure an adequate supply of trained and motivated teachers

Join in the conversation #NoMoreExcuses @GEMReport / @Refugees

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  1. The devil is in the details. GEM can take the leadership to reveal it and disentangle it.
    E.g. how to educate Syrian children in standard Arabic in, say, Denmark, given varying levels but also given the massively limited performance of Arab students in their own countries? Should all students perhaps be taught in English? That has been the default option of many organizations in Africa, despite irregular English spelling that ensures illiteracy among the poorest.

    These are big issues that deserve considerable deliberation and presentation of research. UNESCO is uniquely posed to deal with them. We look forward to solutions.

  2. There should be a standing order for any said package to include provision for displaced children continue – education program. Displacement is not good enough to be prompted as an excuse for a refugee child to skip classes. Education doesn’t wait for anyone, we must help children out of twisted tragic event.

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