Amplifying innovation in refugee education

A new initiative seeks to identify, document and promote promising practices in the field of refugee education.

Preschool at Kiryandongo refugee settlement Uganda - December 2015 Credit: GPE/Henry Bongyereirwe

Preschool at Kiryandongo refugee settlement in Uganda, which counts close to 50,000 refugees from South Sudan, a huge increase from 5,300 in 2013.

The mass movement of people is undoubtedly one of the defining issues of our time, dominating policy making, politics and the news media, and for good reason:  in 2015, the number of forcibly displaced people in the world reached its highest level since the end of the Second World War.

Today more than 21 million people worldwide - half of them children – have been driven by war and persecution to seek protection in other countries.

Fleeing their homes almost 80% of the world’s refugees live in low-income countries, which means they then struggle to access basic services, including education. Refugee children consequently experience the double jeopardy of losing both their homes and their education, compromising the future of entire generations.

Of the 6 million registered school-age refugees, more than 3.7 million are not in school. At the same time the vast majority of refugee children who are in school experience poor quality teaching, often by untrained volunteers, in classrooms that lack the most basic supplies.

Refugee children and their families prioritize education

Despite this, refugee children and their parents prioritize education often above everything else, because they know it’s critical to their future. They also know that by simply being in school, children are better protected from trafficking, illegal adoption, child marriage, sexual exploitation and forced labor — both immediately after displacement and in the long term.

But the demand of children and parents for education is clearly not being met. There is no question that closing the education gap for refugee children around the world requires an urgent step change in global political will and financing.

A step change that matches both the demand of refugee communities for education and the ingenuity and creativity that those communities often demonstrate in providing it.

Shining a light on promising practices

This is where a joint project between UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, Pearson and Save the Children comes in. The Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative is looking to shine a light on innovations occurring in response to the challenges of educating refugees.

Having had the privilege of seeing situations in the Middle East, Africa and in other parts of Asia where refugee communities are doing everything they can to provide their children with an education, I have first-hand knowledge of the difference these projects are making.

However, while pioneering examples of refugee education exist, they are often not well known or understood outside of their context. Through the Promising Practices initiative, we want to identify the projects with the most promise of contributing to wider change, and document and promote them.

There are numerous examples of innovative practice and good policy that deserve to be better known and understood.

Bridging the development and humanitarian divide

One such initiative is the Global Partnership for Education’s accelerated funding mechanism. It has recently made a significant difference to the provision of education to thousands of refugees in Chad and holds great promise if deployed elsewhere.

Adopted in 2012, the mechanism was designed to enable rapid disbursement of funding in crisis situations with the aim to restore critical education activities quickly.

Conflict and famine drive displacement and deny children an education

Bordering Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan, Chad sits at the juncture of several major humanitarian crises. Beginning in late 2013, the increased level of terrorist activities in Nigeria led to large numbers of refugees arriving in Chad, particularly in the Lake Chad Region on the country’s western border.

Chad hosts almost 400,000 refugees – 56% are children and 44% are school age, with over 100,000 school-age refugee children who are not in school. There are likely many more who have crossed the border into Chad but are unregistered and therefore invisible to protection and education systems.

In response, in 2016 the Government of Chad submitted an application for US$6.95 million in accelerated funding from GPE.

Accelerated funding for education helps get children into school

The grant funds a Basic Education Emergency Project designed to benefit both refugee and returnee populations and host communities: 62% of children in the host community are themselves out of school, the average class size for those in primary school is 75, and the rate of adult illiteracy is 96%.The GPE project focuses on basic service delivery including the construction of 86 permanent classrooms, 40 temporary learning structures, 25 wells and 80 latrines.

Countries like Chad are eligible for accelerated funding under GPE’s Guidelines for Accelerated Support in Emergency and Early Recovery Situations if they are already eligible for a GPE implementation grant, affected by a crisis for which a humanitarian appeal has been launched by UN OCHA that includes education, and are able to demonstrate that GPE’s funds are additional.

Along with the emergence of Education Cannot Wait: the new fund for education in emergencies, the development and deployment of GPE’s new accelerated funding window is an example of how donors, both existing and new, can respond to the needs of forcibly displaced populations.

We hope that by sharing innovations like this we will amplify the case for other innovations and improve the potential for replication of promising practices through increased awareness and improved understanding.

Submit your project

You can find out more about the Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative and if you are implementing a project that you think might meet the selection criteria then please submit it.

Selected projects will be given technical support to develop case studies about their work along with a small grant of US$1,000 in recognition of the costs associated with the documentation process.

These case studies will then form part of a collection that showcases innovative practices from around the world. We will also publish a synthesis report that will be launched at UNGA 2017 and shared widely within the sector and with policy makers.

Refugee children have the same right to access education as other children and need the skills and knowledge that education provides to help them adjust to their new circumstances, integrate into communities and ultimately to thrive.

Identifying, documenting and sharing projects that have helped to deliver that can play a vital part in getting us closer to the goal of ensuring every last refugee child can enjoy their right to learn.

Author(s)

Head of Education Policy & Advocacy, Save the Children
Joseph Nhan-O'Reilly is Head of Education Policy & Advocacy at Save the Children, the world's largest independent child rights organization, where he works alongside a global team of managers and educators...

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