The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees states that there are about 25.4 million refugees on the planet – 3.7 million of which are school-age children with zero access to any type of formal education. And even for those who do have access to education, the situation remains dire.
In Syria, the Ahmed Baheddine Rajab School near Damascus houses several thousand Syrian children displaced by the war. Although the Rajab School is already implementing double shifts via its underpaid teachers, it can barely keep up with the children’s educational needs.
Meanwhile, in the UK, The Prisma reported on the desperate state of refugees faced with unwelcoming British immigration laws. Families have been split up, as ineligible relatives remain stuck in their war-torn home countries.
However, all hope is not lost. What looks like an entirely wretched situation could soon improve thanks to the efforts of the international community. Several British schools are recognising their role in providing hope and practical skills to incoming refugees.
In the UK, Spires Academy has been providing refugee and asylum-seeking children with lessons in EAL or English as an additional language – so much so that other British schools look to Spires for advice when it comes to schooling refugees. Melanie Tuck who heads EAL classes at Spires Academy explains why they’re doing the work they do: “If (refugees) are coming in at 15, 16, or 17 with no English at all, you’re giving them a mountain to climb.”
Many other initiatives to help displaced children are being pushed by the international community. Save the Children have been in Libya since the fighting began in 2011, and today, they’re still looking for partners to scale up their response to the ongoing crisis. This includes helping both medical clinics and schools to stay open so children can still have safe spaces to play, learn, and recover. Thankfully the international community is responding. In 2016, at the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey, governments and philanthropists came together to create the Education Cannot Wait Fund. The initiative is designed to meet the educational needs of the millions of displaced children around the world. During the same year, the UN Summit came together to form the New York Declaration, which represents the political will of the world’s leaders to protect the rights of people affected by the ongoing crisis. This declaration will culminate this 2018 in hopes of forming the Global Compact on Refugees, a plan to follow through on the promises made via the prior New York Declaration.
This declaration of response to the growing refugee crisis includes a promise that all refugee children will be given access to quality education within months of crossing international borders.
In order to consistently provide the 7.5 million school-age refugees now staying in low to middle-income countries with quality pre-primary, primary, and secondary education for at least five years, Save the Children estimated that $21.5 billion (£16.4 billion) is needed. It may look like a lot of money, but compared to the potential gains of alleviating the lives of the millions of refugees affected by different global crises, it’s a modest investment to say the least.
For now, the future of the world’s displaced peoples rests on the results of the upcoming Global Compact on Refugees as well as the various other global initiatives aimed at educating school-age refugee children. We can only hope that the world’s leaders are able to deliver on their promises.