At a tender age of 6-12, when a child is supposed to attend school and spend his/her time playing with friends, millions of children have been forced to leave their homes and take refuge in an unknown country. A latest report suggests that the population of refugees currently stands at 25.4 million which is 2.9 million more than 2016. What is even more depressing is that more than half of the world's refugees are children.
Furthermore, the refugee children have not only lost their homes, but a major portion of the refugee population has also lost their opportunity to attend schools. According to Save the Children, only 61 percent of refugee children attend primary school. In fact, the numbers are even worse in case of high studies. UNHCR reveals that just one percent of the refugees attend university, which is much lower than the global standard (34 percent).
The adopting of the New York Declaration of Refugees and Migrants
Notably, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration of Refugees and Migrants on September 19, 2016, which was identified as the foundation of a new approach by the international community to deal with the refugee situation.
The declaration outlines a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) that initiates specific actions to cover areas like the enhancement of refugee self-reliance, aiding the host countries to deal with the situation, expansion of access to third-country solutions, and providing support in the countries of origin to facilitate the safe return of the people.
While the Declaration was being adopted, the UN member states also assigned UNHCR the task to develop a Global Compact on Refugees. This initiative will join hands with CRRF with a Programme of Action which outlines actionable objectives for both Member States and others to confirm the complete execution of the promises stated in the Declaration.
Interestingly, the consultations on the Programme of Action have taken place several times over the last few months. One was even hosted in Geneva, where the focus was on the measures to aid the refugees, and help the host communities to meet their needs.
How can the declaration promote education for refugees?
All the Member States of UN General Assembly support the statements mentioned in the New York Declaration, and share their commitments to “ensure all children are receiving education within a few months of arrival” and “priorities budgetary provision to facilitate this, including support for host countries as required."
Additionally, the member states also ensured that they would also facilitate early childhood, primary and secondary education, alongside accelerated learning, tertiary and vocational education.
An overview of the current refugee situation
While the initiative from the UN and its member states may seem commendable, it requires much more than that to solve the refugee problem across the globe. According to Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report, half of all refugee children of primary school age don't go to school, and fewer than the 25 percent of refugee children get to attend high school.
One of the major reasons why these refugee kids are out of school is because they often face discrimination and deliberate exclusion as they are far from home. The report also suggests that the refugee children are 5 times less likely to attend a school than the native children of the host countries.
Those who have access to education are not enjoying any additional privileges as the quality of education they receive is very poor. The situation is much depressing in the countries where the third generation of children has taken birth into displacement. For them, the idea of returning to their home with dignity sounds like a fairy tale.
What actions are in order to solve the refugee education crisis?
The promises made in the New York Declaration regarding education for refugee children and the Compact’s Programme of Action provide hope to the refugees across the world and promise a better future by ensuring the right to education and supporting the communities that are hosting them. These initiatives may just change the way the world deals with the needs of the refugee population.
The local, as well as the international organizations, have shown their support towards the initial commitments in the Programme of Action, as they aim to promote education for refugees with the focus on refugee children (especially girls) who face challenges regarding educational access and learning. Notably, the initiatives also work on the proposal to include the refugee children and youth in hosting country’s national education system within three months of displacement.
How can the Programme of Action be improved and made more actionable?
While the Programme of Action sounds like a nice initiative to promote education for refugee children, it also lacks the conviction required to achieve the desired objective. The GEM report suggests a three-point-plan which outlines specific actions that may just improve the Programme of Action:
i. Including refugee children and youth to the national education systems:
As mentioned earlier, the inclusion of the refugee kids and youth in the host countries’ national education system can be the most effective and sustainable, providing the displaced children with the access to quality education and learning opportunities. To do that, the Programme of Action does need to increase technical and material support to those countries that are willing to include refugees in their national education sector plans.
As a matter of fact, several countries have already shown interest in adopting this approach. However, the countries may struggle to execute the plan as their already-stretched education systems struggle to facilitate a large number of children. The joint technical support from the Global Partnership for Education, Education Cannot Wait and UNHCR may be needed to implement the idea successfully.
ii. Sponsoring the refugee education:
It is quite unfortunate that the countries that are hosting the 86 percent of the world’s total refugee population already struggle to meet the needs of the marginalized children. Without any international support, the countries may not be able to improve their local services and offer alternative educational opportunities for the refugee children.
Apparently, the responsibility for the large movements of refugees needs to be shared properly among the local and international entities. To mobilize the funding necessary to deliver education to the refugee children and the children from the hosting communities, the authorities may need to use the global plan for refugee education, which is based on the national cost estimates in the refugee-hosting countries. Many of the websites also provide online education to the refugee childrens like Tophomeworkhelper.com. They provide online homework help to the refugee children.
iii. Quality learning outcomes for refugee and the host community children:
While providing the children with the access to education is somewhat essential, it is also important to ensure that the education is of good quality, which may enable genuine learning outcomes. As mentioned previously, the current quality of education provided to the refugee children is quite poor, which may put their learning, development, and well-being at risk.
The complexity of the education needs of the refugee children often makes the improvement of their learning outcomes challenging to attain. While many of them have gone through years of distress and severe trauma, not being familiar with the schools for years also makes it difficult for the educators to facilitate quality education for the refugee children.
These aforementioned steps do have the potential to improve the outcomes of the Programme of Action. However, all the concerned organizations need to come together and serve the common objectives of:
Improving the foundational literacy and numeracy in the early stage of schooling while offering assistance on holistic learner assessments;
Increasing the resources for psychosocial assistance as well as social-emotional learning;
Making early learning a standard practice in refugee responses;
Safeguarding the policies and initiatives related to education, to ensure the vulnerable refugees, including girls, have free access to education;
Collecting refugee education data to inform policy-making, budgeting, and accountability.
While the refugee parents have consistently identified quality education as one of the highest priorities for their children, they didn't receive any positive response from the concerning authorities in the past. The Declaration certainly injects hope in their mind as the promises mentioned in it do offer a glimpse of a better future of the students.