Refugees: A worrying education gap

The refugee education gap brings incalculable losses for individuals and societies

 

Wars, conflict and persecution have in the past five years forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. The single biggest reason for the spike has been the catastrophic war in Syria, but the trend has also been driven by 15 conflicts that have ignited or reignited in the past five years, including those in South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen. As a result, there are now 17.2 million refugees under the mandate of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. Half of them are under 18.

A new report by the agency this week points to one of the most damaging yet often overlooked consequences of displacement for those children: a lack of access to education. Across the world, 91 per cent of children go to primary school. For refugees, the figure is 61 per cent, and in low-income countries it falls below 50 per cent. Some progress is being made. The proportion of refugees in primary school last year was up sharply on 2015, thanks largely to measures taken by Syria’s neighbours to enrol more refugee children in school, as well as the arrival of more families in Europe, where education is compulsory. But as children get older, the obstacles multiply. Just 23 per cent of refugee adolescents are enrolled in secondary school, compared to 84 per cent globally. In other words, millions of children are being robbed of the opportunity to learn to read and write, to inquire, to debate, to gain vital life skills and enjoy the same benefits as their peers. And the world is being robbed of the contribution they could make to their communities as a result.

The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, signed last year by 193 countries, emphasised education as a critical element of the international response. The UNHCR report argues that education must be considered a core part of the response to refugee emergencies, and that it should be supported by long-term planning and reliable funding. The refugee education gap brings incalculable losses for individuals and societies. Turning words into action would cost the international community a lot less.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.