We need to bridge the education gap for refugees, says new UNHCR report 

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi meets South Sudanese refugees at Pagirinya refugee settlement in Adjumani, Uganda. © UNHCR/Michele Sibiloni

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (UNHCR)

  • From 2018 to 2020, almost a million children were born as refugees.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, more than 1.6 billion learners have been affected by the closure of their school or university.
  • Data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) suggests that 68% of refugee children around the world are enrolled in primary school.
  • Just 34% are enrolled in secondary school.
  • UNHCR has set an ambitious target of 15% for refugee enrolment in higher education by 2030.

From 2018 to 2020, almost a million children were born as refugees. Right from the start, these youngsters face spending their childhoods, even their entire lives, outside the countries they should call home. The impact of COVID-19 on their lives will be profound. UNESCO estimates that since the start of the pandemic, more than 1.6 billion learners have been affected by the closure of their school or university.

For sure, this unprecedented disruption to education affects all children. But for young refugees, who already face significant obstacles to education, it could dash all hopes of getting the schooling they need. At all levels, refugee enrolment is lower than that of non-refugees. As refugee children get older, however, the picture rapidly worsens and those at secondary level are at the greatest risk of being left behind.

Have you read?

Data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) suggests that 68% of refugee children around the world are enrolled in primary school. By contrast, the gross enrolment for refugees plummets at secondary level, being just 34% on average.

But there are wide regional differences; in some countries, the secondary school enrolment rate for refugees is in the single digits. That is why the focus of UNHCR’s 2021 Education Report is on secondary education. The report highlights the demand, benefits and gaps in the provision and opportunity of quality secondary education.

Beyond primary

For refugee adolescents, the pressure to drop out of school and support their families can be intense – this pressure has intensified thanks to the pandemic’s economic devastation. The risk of boys and girls being subjected to child labour, including its more exploitative forms, is acute.

Yet without a secondary education, young people who should be embracing an important phase of growth, development, and opportunity, instead face huge risks. Denying them a secondary education is like removing a large section of the bridge that leads to their futures – the bridge to better financial prospects, greater independence, and improved health outcomes.

It is also the bridge to higher education.

UNHCR has set an ambitious target of 15% for refugee enrolment in higher education by 2030 under our 15by30 campaign. The good news is that the most recent enrolment level for higher education is at 5%, up from 3% year-on-year and 1% only a few years ago.

Enrollment of refugees in education
Enrollment of refugees in education. Image: UNHCR

Effects of COVID-19

That progress, and all other educational advances for refugees, is nevertheless under grave threat due to COVID-19. While it is too early to grasp the full impact of the pandemic, the damage is likely to be terrible. Estimates from UNHCR offices in 37 countries indicate that refugee learners lost an average of 142 days of school up to March 2021 because of closures of schools, universities, and other institutions. This is an enormous deficit to recover.

It’s true that many students and teachers have adapted quickly. Online resources are endless, and over the past few months, we have seen technology and digital learning make rapid advances. Yet inequality is present in the virtual world, too. Digital learning is more achievable if you have an internet connection, a suitable device, the money to afford such things and somewhere quiet to listen and learn.

With coordinated action, we can make up for lost time and reach our ultimate target, which is to give all children and youth, including refugees, the education they deserve. —Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

For thousands of refugee learners who live in unconnected regions, who do not have access to digital devices (or must share them with others), and who live in crowded conditions, such resources are unrealistic.

Confronting this challenge requires a massive, coordinated effort, and it is a task we cannot afford to shirk. For all children and youth, especially the most vulnerable, we need a worldwide “back-to-school” campaign. For refugees, in particular, states must ensure that they are part of national educational systems and planning, including catch-up programmes.

International support

Where resources are stretched – bearing in mind that 27% of refugees are in the world’s least developed countries – host states need international support to build capacity at secondary level: they need more schools, appropriate learning materials, teacher training for specialised subjects, separate facilities for teenage girls, and more.

And we need to close the digital divide with better and more affordable connectivity as well as low-tech or no-tech educational platforms. These are all clear action points that will have demonstrable results.

How is the World Economic Forum helping to improve humanitarian assistance?

With more than 132 million people worldwide requiring humanitarian assistance, humanitarian responses must become more efficient and effective at delivering aid to those who need it most.

Cash assistance has been recognized as a faster and more effective form of humanitarian aid compared to in-kind assistance such as food, clothing or education. Cash transfers give more control to their beneficiaries, allowing them to prioritize their own needs. They also have a proven track record of fostering entrepreneurialism and boosting local economies.

When the UN Secretary-General issued a call for innovative ways to improve cash-based humanitarian assistance, the World Economic Forum responded by bringing together 18 organizations to create guidelines for public-private cooperation on humanitarian cash transfers.

The guidelines are outlined in the Principles on Public-Private Cooperation in Humanitarian Payments and show how the public and private sectors can work together to deliver digital cash payments quickly and securely to crisis-affected populations. Since its publication in 2016, the report has served as a valuable resource for organizations, humanitarian agencies and government leaders seeking to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian aid and advance financial inclusion.

Learn more about this project and find out how you can join the Forum to get involved in initiatives that are helping millions of lives every day.

The pandemic has given many of us a taste of what refugees endure on a daily basis: isolation, restrictions on movement, economic uncertainty, and the sudden denial of basic services. Hundreds of thousands of children are born into this life year after year.

We are losing ground in the effort to ensure full, quality education for all. But with coordinated action, we can make up for lost time and reach our ultimate target, which is to give all children and youth, including refugees, the education they deserve.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Australia urged to evacuate offshore detainees amid widespread, acute mental distress

Any doubt?

From funders to partners: elevating community expertise to help communities thrive

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

London is becoming the world’s first National Park City

Yemen consultations have started, insists top UN negotiator

Commission approves emergency measures to protect eastern Baltic cod

How data can help mining companies tackle their trust deficit

From drought to floods in Somalia; displacement and hunger worsen, says UN

From raised fists at the 1968 Olympics to taking the knee: A history of racial justice protests in sport

Will the European Court of Justice change data privacy laws to tackle terrorism?

This is how travel hotspots are fighting back against overtourism

Do all you can to resolve climate change ‘sticking points’ UN chief urges South-East Asian leaders, in Bali

Four lessons from Africa on building effective business ecosystems

Australian homes are turning to solar power in record numbers

European research priorities for 2021-2027 agreed with member states

Meeting the basic needs of our healthcare workers

Mental health: a medical school’s demand

Embracing the diversity in a multicultural city of Romania

The EU Commission lets money market funds continue the unholy game of banks

How the power of sport can bring us together and drive social justice

EU Blue Card: Commission welcomes political agreement on new rules for highly skilled migrant workers

Why building consumer trust is the key to unlocking AI’s true potential

Ukraine’s new political order not accepted in Crimea

Protecting European consumers: toys and cars on top of the list of dangerous products

This is how New York plans to end its car culture

Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Mandatory food labelling Non-Vegetarian / Vegetarian / Vegan’ initiative’

Is South Korea set to lose from its FTA with the EU?

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

The role of public affairs in student NGOs

Future Forces Forum: Prague will be hosting the most important project in the field of Defence and Security

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Political power of women suffering ‘serious regression’, General Assembly President warns

7 top things to know about coronavirus today

How global trade can save lives and livelihoods – and help protect the planet

EU job-search aid worth €9.9 million for 1,858 former Air France workers

European Semester 2018 Spring Package: Commission issues recommendations for Member States to achieve sustainable, inclusive and long-term growth

COVID-19: Save European culture and values, MEPs tell Commission

Children suffering ‘atrocities’ as number of countries in conflict hits new peak: UNICEF

We need to rethink ESG to ensure access to water and sanitation for all

International Court of Justice orders Pakistan to review death penalty for Indian accused of spying

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

Top UN political official updates Security Council on Iran nuclear deal

It’s not summer holidays what lead to the bad August of the German economy

How can the world end viral hepatitis by 2030? 5 experts explain

How to talk about climate change: 5 tips from the front lines

Failure to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia is a mistake

Myanmar doing too little to ensure displaced Rohingya return: UN refugee agency chief

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

EU-UK relations: solutions found to help implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

Croatian Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

Media and entertainment in flux: it’s time for the close-up

5 droughts that changed human history

Are the G20 leaders ready to curb corporate tax-avoidance?

European Youth, quo vadis?

China is the first non-EU country to invest in Europe’s €315 billion Plan

EU institutions agree on priorities for coming years: A common agenda for our recovery and renewed vitality

Coronavirus Global Response: EIB and Commission pledge additional €4.9 billion

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s