The world is currently facing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 65 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Among them are 22 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
In the words of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi,
“Refugees have skills, ideas, hopes and dreams… They are also tough, resilient and creative, with the energy and drive to shape their own destinies, given the chance.”
We think that ensuring refugee and forcibly displaced children continue to go to school is the best way to give them that chance.
That’s why, on World Refugee Day, we want to highlight the importance of education for refugees.
- Refugees are 5 times less likely to be in school than non-refugee children
The gap widens as children get older. Only 50% of refugee children have access to primary education, compared with a global level of more than 90%. For refuge adolescents, only 22% of them are in lower-secondary school, compared to 84% of their non-refugee counterparts. Furthermore, just 1% of refugees attend university compared to the global rate of 34%.
- Refugee and displaced children spend their entire childhoods away from home
At first thought, it might make sense to prioritize food, shelter, and safety for forcibly displaced people. After all, an emergency situation requires an emergency response. Yet, the average amount of time refugees spend away from home is twenty years. That’s more than most people spend in school. Therefore, responses to the refugee crisis have to move past basic survival.
- The vast majority of refugees live in developing countries
84% of refugees are hosted in developing regions, including 1 out of 3 in the world’s least developed countries. Refugee children often live in regions where governments are already struggling to provide education to their own citizens. Those governments face the additional task of finding school places, trained teachers and learning materials for the newcomers, who often do not speak the language of instruction and have missed out on several years of schooling.
- Failing to educate children today may force more people from their homes in the future
The largest numbers of displaced populations come from Syria, Colombia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and South Sudan—all countries affected by conflict. Countries with high levels of education inequality are twice as likely to experience conflict, while each year of education reduces the risk of conflict by around 20%.
- As it is for all children, education for refugees is a necessity, not a luxury
Education helps refugees stand on their own feet, allowing them to prepare for the future, be it at home or in a host country. Furthermore, being in school can restore a sense of normalcy and hope in displaced children, as well as protect them (and this goes beyond refugees) from child marriage, child labor, and early pregnancy.