With Covid 19 pandemic disrupting normal life and even the education of a vast majority of children across the world, a new report by UNHCR warned that two-thirds of refugee children might never get to secondary school, and called for an international effort to confront critically low levels of school and university enrolment.
The Report “Staying The Course: The Challenges Facing Refugee Education” highlight the stories of young refugees around the world as they try to keep learning despite unprecedented disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stating that the recent progress was now under threat, UNHCR Chief Filippo Grandi said that it was “a task we cannot afford to shirk”. “For refugee adolescents, the pressures to drop out of school and support their families can be intense – pressures only made worse by the pandemic’s economic devastation. The risk of boys and girls being subjected to child labour, including its more exploitative forms is acute. Denying them a secondary education is like removing an entire section of a bridge that leads to their futures – the bridge to better financial prospects, greater independence and improved health outcomes,” the Chief said.
REFUGEE EDUCATION TRAILS
The UNHCR data showed that 2019-2020 gross secondary level enrolment rates for refugees stood at only 34 per cent. In almost every country, the rate trailed that of host community children. “Even though thousands of new refugee students were enrolled in school over the reporting period, this continued rise in the global forcibly displaced population means that close to half of all refugee children – 48 per cent – remain out of school,” the report said.
The UNHCR data pointed out that gross enrolment rates for refugees at primary level stood at 68 per cent from March 2019-2020. Enrolment in higher education was at five per cent, a 2-point rise year on year and a growth that represents transformational change for thousands of refugees and their communities, the report said.
The UNHCR report stated that secondary school should be a time of growth, development and opportunity as it increases job prospects, health and independence. It would also help in strengthening the leadership of vulnerable young people, bolstering them to be less likely to be pressured into child labour. However, the report stated that the target set by UNHCR and partners for 15 per cent of refugees enrolled in higher education by 2030 will remain out of reach without a major increase in access at secondary level,
CALL TO ACTION
- Ensure the right of all children, including those in crisis-affected contexts, to access secondary education
- Provide dedicated, multi-year financing for secondary education
- Ensure that adolescent girls enjoy the life changing benefits of secondary education
- Ensure that quality secondary education equips young people with the skills they need