Every last refugee child in school and learning

A child attending school in a refugee camp in Liberia. Half of the world’s child refugees are out of school.  ©  Save the Children

A child attending school in a refugee camp in Liberia. Half of the world’s child refugees are out of school. © Save the Children

Next week’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul must deliver a new deal for the world’s child refugees, at the heart of which should be a commitment to ensure that they all have access to education.

Across the globe the number of refugees, internally displaced people and asylum-seekers is on the rise as a result of violence and persecution. Tragically the total number is now higher than at any time since the end of the Second World War.

There are some 60 million displaced people, almost 20 million of whom are refugees – people who have fled their country seeking protection from violence or persecution.

Once displaced for six months a refugee is likely to remain displaced for at least three years, with the average length of displacement now estimated at 17 years – almost an entire childhood.

Given the length of time children and their families are likely to be displaced it’s essential that they receive access to quality basic services, including education, as soon as possible.

Half of all refugee children are out of school

However, of the 7.3 million child refugees in the world today, half don’t have access to education: in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, which has been in existence since 1992, the primary enrolment rate is 42% and the secondary enrolment rate is only 5%.

Refugee children are five times less likely to attend school than other children.

The case for education for refugees

Parents and children affected by crises identify access to quality education as one of their highest-priority concerns.

They know that education can provide children with vital skills and knowledge and can support them in accessing future learning opportunities.

Education also has other benefits; when children have safe spaces to learn and play they are less vulnerable to the increased risks they face during displacement, including violence, sexual exploitation, child marriage, recruitment into armed groups and child labor.

Schools can also provide children with the space they need to access psychological support and regain a sense of normalcy as well as heal from traumatic events.  There is compelling evidence that putting education at the center of humanitarian response can have a catalytic effect on strengthening humanitarian effectiveness, reducing children’s vulnerabilities and managing risks to their protection and development during crises as well as ensuring their learning is disrupted as little as possible.

Not providing education incurs massive costs

The costs of not providing education are huge. In Syria the loss of human capital through lost education due to the ongoing crisis is estimated at US$10.7 billion, the equivalent of almost 18% of the Syrian GDP in 2010.  Quality education also plays a critical role in peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

Guaranteeing education for all refugee children

Save the Children is calling for global action at the World Humanitarian Summit and beyond to close the education gap for the world’s refugee children.

We believe all refugee children should be in education and learning. This can be achieved by action to:

  • ensure that the world’s 3.2 million out of school refugee children have access to education.
  • improve the quality of education being provided to all of the world’s refugee children, including those that are in school.
  • increase early childhood care and education for the world’s 2 million pre-primary aged refugees.

We are also calling on the international community to guarantee that no future refugee child will be left without education for more than 30 days.

Education Cannot Wait

One practical way in which the education gap for refugee children can be addressed will be via the creation of Education Cannot Wait a new fund for education in emergencies.

The creation of Education Cannot Wait presents the opportunity to generate the shared political, operational and financial commitment needed to scale up financing and improve coordination, planning and delivery of education in emergencies and protracted crises.

Once established we believe that Education Cannot Wait can help provide the catalytic shift in ambition and approaches to ensure every last refugee child is in education and learning.

The foundation for peace and prosperity

Getting this right will have a profound impact on the lives of millions of children as individuals, securing their right to education  but also having a transformational impact on their communities, building the foundations for peace and prosperity in the process.

This was first published by Save the Children on Monday May 16.