Address education needs of refugee children - GulfToday

Address education needs of refugee children


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Refugee children in their millions are missing out on education, according to the United Nations, and the matter is hugely upsetting.

Host countries certainly need to formulate more inclusive policies to prevent such children from languishing in camps for years and thereby losing hope.

A child is an uncut diamond, once wrote Austin O’Malley. Children are precious and deserve peace, protection and encouragement at all times.

As per the new UN refugee agency (UNHCR) report titled, “Stepping Up,” of 7.1 million refugee youngsters of school age, more than half do not attend lessons.

The barriers that prevent them from accessing learning become harder to overcome as they get older.

Only six in 10 refugee children attend primary school — compared to nine in 10 globally — and only around two in 10 refugees get a secondary education, compared to the world average of more than eight in 10.

The trend is even clearer in higher education, where only three in every 100 refugee children are able to pursue their learning, compared with the world average of 37 in 100.

“It’s not just sad, but it’s also dumb,” as Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the agency’s High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, points out.

Not investing in refugees, people who have fled war zones, is not investing very simply in the future of its people; the people have to be the future teachers, architects, the peacemakers, artists, politicians who are interested in reconciliation, not revenge.

The problem mainly affects poorer countries, which offer shelter to families fleeing conflict and natural disasters, despite frequently lacking sufficient resources themselves.

In wealthy regions such as Europe, most countries have placed refugee children into mainstream education, with the exception of Greece and a handful of Balkan States, where refugees are said to be in limbo and still seeking asylum.

The situation is said to be critical for refugees and migrants in Greece. UNHCR officials have clearly warned that there continue to be thousands and thousands of asylum seekers, many of them children, many unaccompanied minors who, given the lack of capacity of the Greek State, are not able to access education and are languishing dangerously in many parts of the country.

Most children in conflict zones are also denied access to health care, housing and security, among other rights.

Among the major reasons cited for the worsening situation are the increasing urbanisation of war, the growing use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as the complex nature of modern conflict that has put children and civilians on the front lines.

The plight of the refugee children is palpable. The importance of allowing refugee children to enter national and regular school systems and obtain the same certificates as other children should never be underestimated.

By the end of 2017, there were more than 25.4 million refugees around the world, 19.9 million of them under UNHCR’s mandate. More than half – 52 per cent – were children.

The refugee issue is a global humanitarian challenge that needs to be collectively addressed due to its significant impact on global stability and peace. The future of entire generations of children and young people in countries affected by conflicts and unrest are at stake.

Ensuring a better future for refugee children is a primary humanitarian duty of the global community.

The UNHCR is right in appealing for more refugees to be included in national education systems, instead of being corralled into unofficial learning centres.

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