Leaving no one behind: A global pledge to provide inclusive education for refugees

Lessons learned since joint pledge on Global Refugee Forum in 2019.

December 12, 2023 by Margarita Focas Licht, GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
A student running towards Guelile school building in Djibouti. Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa
A student running towards Guelile school building in Djibouti.
Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

The number of refugees around the world is at an all-time high, reaching 35.3 million in 2022. The 2019 UNHCR education report cited a total of 7.1 million refugee children with 3.7 million out of school.

While the percentage has remained roughly the same, there are now millions more refugee children missing out on education: according to the 2023 UNHCR education report there are 14.8 million school-aged refugee children in the world, with more than 7 million not enrolled in school.

Most refugee situations are protracted. Refugees often remain in host countries for decades. To significantly reduce the number of out of school refugee children, including these children in national education systems is the most effective and sustainable strategy.

But the majority of refugee children are hosted by countries whose education systems are already severely constrained by shortages in qualified teachers, classrooms and facilities, learning materials, and other resources.

In these countries, budgets are strained, and the influx of refugees adds to existing challenges of providing education to growing populations.

The Global Compact on Refugees stipulates that the global community needs to do its part in addressing this challenge, sharing the responsibility for ensuring the rights of refugee populations.

This includes supporting lower-income refugee hosting countries in providing long-term opportunities both for refugee populations and the communities that host them.

At the second Global Refugee Forum on December 13, 2023 the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is joining a multistakeholder pledge to step up efforts to ensure refugee children and youth can go to school and learn.

Students lining up in the schoolyard before classes start at Kulmiye College in the refugee village of Ali Adde, in Djibouti. Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

Djibouti: Since 2019, GPE, alongside the World Bank and Education for All, is supporting the government of Djibouti to make public schools more inclusive for refugee children and to help the government take on the operation of schools in refugee camps formerly run by non-governmental organizations and UNHCR.
Photo credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

Students from Class 8 take part in a maths class at Marble Quarry Primary School in Kajiado Central on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: GPE/Luis Tato

Kenya: Since 2022, GPE, alongside the LEGO Foundation and the World Bank, is supporting the Kenyan government in providing education support to refugee and host schools in Dadaab, Kakuma, and Kalobeyi.
Photo credit: GPE/Luis Tato

A teacher writes at the blackboard in front of his students at the Sebeta Secondary School, located in Sebeta City. Credit: GPE/Alexandra Humme

Ethiopia: Approved in 2021, GPE Multiplier funding with co-financing from the World Bank and Denmark supports a program to develop updated policy and institutional frameworks for effective integration of refugees into the national education system.
Photo credit: GPE/Alexandra Humme

Sixteen-year-old student Salawa Emmanuel recites songs at St. Bakhita School ahead of lessons in Yambio Province, South Sudan. Credit: GPE/Jok Solomon

South Sudan: Approved in 2023, GPE Multiplier funding with co-financing from the IDA Window for Host Communities and Refugees will support a refugee education project that aims to mainstream refugee and host community teachers into the national system.
Photo credit: GPE/Jok Solomon

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The Global Partnership for Education’s pledge

GPE's mission is to mobilize partnerships and investments that transform education systems in lower-income countries, leaving no one behind. GPE supports partner countries’ efforts to strengthen their education systems so they can provide all children with opportunities to learn.

Strong national education systems are better able to ensure the education of refugee children, and when we support the inclusion of refugees in national education systems, we also support better schools for host communities.

GPE therefore commits to:

  1. Mobilize more financing for refugee inclusion through GPE grants supporting system transformation and strengthened capacity as well as leveraging opportunities for additional and innovative financing.
  2. Support inclusive, evidence-based policy dialogue to include refugees in education systems.
  3. Work with partners to build support for refugee inclusion and advocate for increased financing for education in refugee-hosting partner countries.
  4. Work with partners to support knowledge exchange and the development of global public goods that support inclusion at the country level.

Progress since the 2019 Global Refugee Forum

At the first Global Refugee Forum in December 2019, GPE committed to more and better financing to scale up quality learning for refugees.

GPE also pledged to support inclusive and resilient systems to ensure quality education for refugees. These commitments have translated into concrete actions across multiple partner countries:

  • GPE has supported policy dialogue in the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, and Uganda to highlight the education needs of refugee children when designing reforms.
  • As of August 2023, GPE has invested $1.1 billion to strengthen education systems in 17 countries where refugees have access to school. Since 2013, 68 GPE partner countries have accessed a total of US$857 million to mitigate the impact of crises on children’s education, including natural disasters, armed conflict, forced displacement, and health emergencies.
  • Education Out Loud, GPE’s fund for advocacy and social accountability, includes support to civil society actors who promote access to quality education for refugees and other marginalized groups. The fund is active in 37 fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

GPE also joined Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and the World Bank in a pledge “to work together to close the education financing gap and provide technical assistance in refugee-hosting countries”. This joint pledge aimed to improve the coordination and financing of education for refugees and host communities.

Among the results:

  • GPE joined the World Bank and the LEGO Foundation to fund Kenya’s Primary Education Equity in Learning (KPEEL) program in 2022. Within a broader effort to strengthen the education system, this program provides support to refugee and host schools in Dadaab, Kakuma, and Kalobeyi. The program includes results-based school grants, national sample-based learning assessments, student scholarships, school meals, and teacher professional development.
  • In South Sudan, ECW and GPE are joining efforts in the ECW-facilitated Multi-Year Resilience Programme 2 (MYRP-2). GPE has allocated US$10 million as additional financing to US$40 million from ECW. The MYRP-2 has a focus on girls and children with disabilities, refugees and internally displaced children.

Why is a joint pledge on refugee education at GRF 2023 important?

At this week’s Global Refugee Forum, a broader multistakeholder education pledge sets a clear framework for all of us to work together to form a coherent, interconnected approach to refugee education through joint efforts by hosting countries and donors, multilateral organizations, civil society and others.

The pledge is focused on inclusion in national education systems while recognizing the need for immediate, temporary education opportunities at the outset of a refugee crisis.

It also emphasizes that such responses should facilitate transition to national education systems in the longer term.

Focusing on national systems has the potential to maximize support for the greatest number of refugee children, enabling effective monitoring so that partners can transparently deliver on their pledges.

Reigniting inclusion efforts with this pledge, GPE is committed to a future where all refugee and host community children are safe, in school and learning.


Read other blogs in this series on the importance to include refugee in education systems

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