GENEVA — More than half of the world’s 7.1 million school-age refugee children fail to receive a basic education due to host nations’ lack of money, classrooms, teachers and other resources, the U.N. refugee agency reported on Friday.
As many as 3.7 million refugee children between the ages of five to 18 are out of school, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, said in its report.
“School is where refugees are given a second chance,” said Filippo Grandi, who heads the U.N. agency. “We are failing refugees by not giving them the opportunity to build the skills and knowledge they need to invest in their futures.”
The agency called on governments, businesses, educational organizations and private donors to support efforts to boost secondary education for refugees.
“We need to invest in refugee education or pay the price of a generation of children condemned to grow up unable to live independently, find work and be full contributors to their communities,” said Grandi.
About 60 percent of refugee children go to primary school compared with 90 percent among all children globally, the report said. About 20 percent of refugee children get a secondary education compared with 80 percent among all children globally.
Just 3 percent of refugee children can pursue higher education compared with 37 percent among all children globally.
100% of refugee children deserve a good education
63% of refugee kids are enrolled in primary school
24% are enrolled in secondary school
3% are in university
It's time to step up.
— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) August 30, 2019
Some encouraging signs
As host to 1 million school-age children, Syria’s neighbor Turkey has been pushing integration by teaching its national language through education programs that include new learning materials, subsidized transport and added teacher training, the report said.
Mexico helped relocate refugee children to areas where all of them can go to school, it said, while Ecuador has been seeking changes in its laws to make its local schools more accessible to Venezuelan refugee children even in cases where they lack proper documentation. Peru and Colombia already welcome such children without IDs.
And in Africa, UNHCR said it is working with more than 20 nations to expand school opportunities for refugees.
“Where you have a country that has a decent national school system, all we’re asking is, please allow the refugees to attend,” said Melissa Fleming, the chief spokesperson for UNHCR, adding that refugees often are sequestered, rather than integrated and educated, for far longer than a decade. “The average time that refugees stay in exile is 17 years.”