MORE than half the world’s refugee children are not receiving any kind of education, a new report published by the United Nations suggests.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said that, out of a worldwide population of 7.4-million school-age refugee children, four million are missing out on schooling.
The loss of their education, he said, meant that the “future of these children and their communities will be irrevocably damaged”.
At the end of last year, there were estimated to be 25.4 million refugees across the world, 52 per cent of whom were children: 7.4 million of these were of school age.
The UNHCR report Turning the Tide: Refugee education in crisis found that the number of out-of-school refugee children has increased by half a million in the past year alone, and it warned that this number was likely to rise even further.
Girls also face extra barriers to education, and the UN has launched a #HerTurn campaign to focus attention on the educational needs of refugee girls.
The senior education adviser for UNHCR, Ita Sheeh, said that an “unprecedented” increase in refugees in the past year — including the crisis faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar, which has forced nearly a million people into refugee camps — meant that progress on increasing the number of refugee children in school had stalled.
Only 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, compared with more than 90 per cent of children around the world.
Fewer than a quarter of refugee children then go on to secondary school, and only one per cent to higher education, compared with more than one third of young people globally. Ms Sheehy said that these figures showed the “chasm” that existed between refugee children and others.
The actress Angelina Jolie, who is a UNHCR Special Envoy, wrote in the report: “The loss of a child’s education is a tragedy. With many wars today lasting longer than the duration of a childhood, this can mean a country losing out on an entire generation of education and skills amongst its young people.”
The report calls for host countries to widen access to schools for refugee children and include them in mainstream schooling, while offering extra support where necessary. Barriers that impede access to education, such as requirements to see birth certificates or school certificates, should also be dropped for refugee children, it argues.