An additional half a million more refugee children are out of school in 2017

UNHCR’s new education report out today, Turn the tide: Refugee education in crisis, makes for sober reading. By the end of 2017, there were more than 25.4 million refugees around the world, more than half of whom are children.

The new data shows that only 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, compared to 92 per cent of children globally. This leaves four million refugee children out of school, half a million more than the year before.

Enrolment rates for refugees drop drastically in secondary education, and only 1% of refugees attend higher education, a figure that has not changed in three years.


UNHCR’s report also reminds us that countries in developing regions host 92% of the world’s school-age refugees. The implication here is of the need for more sustained financial support from the international community to help these countries take on the challenge.

Any talk of funding must bring us back to the continued plight of UNRWA, the other main UN agency supporting refugees, those from Palestine. As we have noted before on this blog, US aid cuts to the agency risk huge implications for the more than half a million Palestinian refugee students it supports.

The response by UNWRA, then, to launch an uplifting #Back2School campaign, opening its school doors despite funding shortfalls and determined to keep them open is very heartening.

“It was because of our remarkable students that I decided to open our schools on time this week, notwithstanding a shortfall of over 200 million USD— an unprecedented deficit in UNRWA’s 70-year history”, said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl

“One thing that has never been at risk is the spirit of education”, he continued. It is something we see embodied in the stories we have received from refugees and asylum seekers the world over in the writing of the 2019 GEM Report on migration and displacement due out 20th  November. It is something we see here in UNRWA’s response, and in the tireless efforts of UNHCR, national governments, NGOs and other education providers working to ‘turn the tide’ back on refugee education.



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