5 examples of GPE support to refugee education

The sharp increase in the number of refugees around the world makes it even more urgent to ensure that education opportunities are available to refugee children. GPE works with partner countries and other development actors to do just that.

June 20, 2023 by Anna-Maria Tammi, GPE Secretariat, and Meredith Lee Bouvier, GPE Secretariat
6 minutes read
The GPE-funded PRIEDE project distributed textbooks via UNHCR to refugees and internally displaced children in the Kakuma refugee camp. Kenya, October 2017
The GPE-funded PRIEDE project distributed textbooks via UNHCR to refugees and internally displaced children in the Kakuma refugee camp. Kenya, October 2017
Credit: UNHCR / Samuel Otero

The number of refugees is growing around the world at a staggering rate; in the largest yearly increase ever recorded by UNHCR, the number of refugees rose from 27 million in 2021 to 35 million at the end of 2022. The increase is largely due to refugees fleeing conflict and violence, with 53% of all refugees coming from just three countries:  the Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Afghanistan

Most refugees—around 67%—are in protracted situations, living in exile for 5 years or longer, unable to return to their home country. Refugee children cannot miss out on education for such long periods. It is imperative to guarantee continuity of education for refugee children, wherever they are.

Most refugees fleeing conflict and persecution remain in neighboring countries. GPE partner countries such as Chad, Djibouti, Kenya, Pakistan, South Sudan and Uganda are responsible for hosting large numbers of refugees, working to ensure refugee children have the continued right to education no matter where they live.

GPE works with partner country governments to strengthen capacities and resourcing for inclusive education, so that refugee children and youth can access national education systems in their host countries.

Refugee education is an opportunity for all: for refugee children, it provides stability, giving them needed skills and a sense of hope for a better future; for host countries, investing in the inclusion of refugees is a big step towards equitable systems with benefits reaching host communities, which are often under resourced.

GPE partner countries are home to almost 4 million refugee children, representing almost a third of the world’s refugee children population

GPE's support to the education of refugee children is multifaceted and frequently a joint effort with other partners in support of the education ministry. Let's look at 3 country examples and 2 initiatives that are making a difference.


In Kenya, GPE, the World Bank and LEGO Foundation are working closely together through the Primary Education Equity in Learning (PEEL) program, which supports refugee education by:

  • Giving results-based school grants to refugee and host schools to boost learning through teacher professional development, strengthened school management structures, improved school inputs and student attendance.
  • Organizing learning assessments in refugee schools to support students who are struggling and inform teacher effectiveness.
  • Providing scholarships to refugee and host students to attend and successfully complete secondary school, including a stipend to cover the costs of transportation to and from school, school kits with personal effects, school uniform, basic learning materials (pens/pencils, erasers and rulers), and mentoring support services.
  • Providing school meals with energy-saving cooking stoves to reduce consumption of firewood and charcoal and curb air pollution in schools.

The design of program interventions was made through a collaborative process, convening humanitarian and development partners; for example, the Kenyan Ministry of Education collaborated with UNHCR and implementing partners to revise the criteria for school grants, to take better account of the needs of refugee schools.

Mary, 16, completes schoolwork in Yambio, South Sudan. October 2018
Mary, 16, completes schoolwork in Yambio, South Sudan. October 2018

South Sudan

GPE and the World Bank are working with the South Sudanese education ministry to enhance teachers's skills and strengthen education delivery through professional development in refugee and host communities.

ECW and GPE also work together to ensure financing targets the children most affected by crisis. For example, when one-third of the country was flooded in 2022, partners requested US$10 million from GPE to mitigate the impacts of the flood on education. GPE's grant was fully integrated within ECW's Multi-Year Resilience Program 2, which targets support to girls and children with disabilities, refugees and internally displaced children, and facilitates the transition from emergency to development.

The program includes a comprehensive package of interventions: paying for school fees, providing education through radio, organizing re-enrollment campaigns, training teachers–especially female teachers- and ensuring child protection and safe and protective learning.


GPE has been working with the Djibouti government to make public schools more inclusive for refugee children. Since 2018, GPE, the World Bank and Education Above All have been working closely together on the Expanding Opportunities for Learning Project.

The project aims to expand access and improve retention in primary and lower secondary education, especially for vulnerable groups such as refugees. The project is working towards the transfer of operation of refugee schools from UNHCR to the Djibouti Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MENFOP) and includes investments to provide technical assistance to support these inclusion efforts, in line with the pledge in the Djibouti Plan of Action on Refugee Education.

As of October 2022, the MENFOP has implemented a second wave of verification of newly enrolled, formerly out-of-school children, which included the assignment of unique student identifiers that will allow MENFOP to track refugee students' enrollment and retention in education.

Support to refugee education through sharing knowledge and innovation

Two KIX research grants focus on innovations to promote education for refugees:

Seventh grader Emtinan, stands by a tent class in Al-Wahdah school, Al-Jufainah IDP camp, Marib, Yemen, March 2021
7th grader Emtinan stands by a tent class in Al-Wahdah school, Al-Jufainah camp for internally displaced persons, Marib, Yemen. March 2021

Support to advocacy for refugee education

Education Out Loud supports civil society to be active and influential in shaping education policy to better meet the needs of communities, including those hosting refugees.

In 2022, 43% of national education coalitions supported by Education Out Loud had among their members at least one organization representing internally displaced persons or refugees.

  • A project supported by Education Out Loud in Yemen is working to increase enrollment and retention of refugee children by December 2023.
  • The advocacy support in Somalia engages civil society groups to advocate for the expansion of equitable and inclusive access to quality education opportunities, including for refugee returnees.
  • Girls Not Brides receives support to work at the intersection of education and child marriage in countries in Francophone West Africa, with a focus on displacement.
  • Protect Education in Emergencies Now is a campaign run by GCE and other regional organizations to amplify the messaging on education in emergencies, including education for refugees.

Making good on our pledges

Following our pledges made at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum, including the joint pledge with ECW and the World Bank , GPE expanded its accelerated funding mechanism to unlock up to $250 million in rapid funding for education in countries experiencing humanitarian emergencies.

To date, US$79 million has been used to support the education of refugee children, with the rest of the funding supporting other types of crisis-affected children including those who are internally displaced. Partner countries experiencing crises can continue to request support to respond to the needs of displaced populations.

GPE will continue to leverage its grant mechanisms and the country-level dialogue to advance the commitments made at the first Global Refugee Forum. We will continue to promote the integration of refugee education in national education systems and the Partnership Compact of host countries to make progress towards quality education for all, and continue to support eligible refugee-host countries to access additional funding by leveraging the GPE Multiplier.

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