If you have the great misfortune of being a child who’s been forced to leave home to flee violence, you are very unlikely to go back to school.
As a refugee it is even more difficult, because you are probably in a settlement or refugee camp in a country that is already struggling to provide basic education to its own children.
If you make it to a temporary school, you may not understand the new language spoken to you by the teacher; you may have to sit on the floor because the classroom is too crowded; and if, despite all of this, you manage to learn and move up in grades, your exam results may not be recognized by your own country once you are able to return.
Refugee children face the hardest road to education
Globally, the picture is bleak for refugee children: they are five times less likely to attend school than other children, with only 40% of refugee children enrolled in primary school and less than 25% enrolled in secondary school. Higher education is almost impossible, with just 1% of refugee children able to progress to that level (data are by UNHCR).
According to UNHCR, in 2017 92% of all refugees were hosted in developing countries, which often face significant education challenges. And the length of forced displacement due to crises and conflict is 20 years on average, longer than a childhood.
Faced with these immense challenges, the Global Partnership for Education works with partners to bridge the gap between humanitarian relief and development assistance in the countries most in need.
We encourage greater attention to the education of refugees and displaced populations when partner countries draft or revise their national education sector plans. And we support countries to strengthen and rebuild education systems during and after crises so that children can continue with their schooling.
Here are three examples of GPE’s action in countries hosting refugee children.
Bangladesh: Re-allocating funding to Rohingya refugees and surrounding communities
As of April 2018, more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees had fled extreme violence in Myanmar and arrived in Bangladesh. The situation has created a massive humanitarian crisis for about 1.3 million refugees and Bangladeshi communities affected by the influx. More than half are school-age children with urgent education needs.
GPE partners have been working with the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that these children get schooling. GPE’s support builds on efforts of other organizations such as UNICEF, UNHCR and Save the Children, which have also been providing education support to Rohingya children.
The GPE funding will help almost 80,000 children get an education, most of whom have never been enrolled in school. Two thirds of them are Rohingya refugees located in camps in Cox’s Bazar; one third are Bangladeshi children in surrounding communities. About 2,000 teachers will be trained. The funding also supports the building of classrooms in camps and surrounding communities and learning and teaching materials.
A groundbreaking learning framework, which outlines what Rohingya children should learn and how that will be assessed, was developed by GPE partners in consultation with the government. GPE’s support complements funding by Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and its multi-year resilience program.
Chad: Supporting refugee and Chadian children in the Lake Chad region
One of the world’s poorest countries, Chad, hosts more than 400,000 refugees, mostly from Sudan, Central African Republic and Nigeria. The country is surrounded by conflicts in neighboring countries and still feeling the effect of famine and other crises. GPE, which allocates about half of its grant funding to support education in countries affected by fragility and conflict, has supported Chad’s efforts to improve a school system that was weak even before large numbers of refugees arrived.
In the remote Lake Chad region, where the refugees are concentrated, 62% of Chad's children are out of school.
With GPE's support, Chad is not only addressing the immediate humanitarian needs of the refugees but also creating a stronger and more enduring education system for local and refugee children alike.
In 2016 and 2017, GPE helped the government build 86 classrooms in the Lake Chad region, launched school meals and nutrition awareness programs, distributed 60,000 new textbooks, and started training programs to expand the number of qualified teachers there. Over 8,500 children have benefitted from these interventions. GPE and ECW have since collaborated on the coordination of humanitarian and longer-term efforts.
Uganda: collaboration among actors to integrate refugee in the national system
Uganda is one of the least developed countries and in the top 10 of refugee hosting countries globally. In 2017, it hosted close to 1.4 million refugees, most fleeing violence from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. This influx has created a great pressure on Uganda’s education system.
In response, GPE and Education Cannot Wait (ECW), through the local education group and under the leadership of the Ministry of Education, joined forces to start a planning process for education provision to refugee children.
They create places for dialogue and policy coordination with development partners around access to education for refugees. GPE provided capacity building, technical support and specialist outreach to government bodies.
This inter-institutional collaboration between GPE and ECW has contributed to reducing the transitional costs of including refugee populations into education sector planning, enabling Uganda to focus on integrating education for refugees into its national system.
The new refugee education plan launched earlier this month is aligned with the national education sector plan, which was developed with support from GPE.