Education in Emergencies & Children on the Move

© UNICEF/UN0410346/Acland


Millions of internally displaced and refugee children and young people are missing out on their right to education. Compared to ten years ago, the number of children and young people displaced within and outside their countries has almost doubled.1 This increases the needs, challenges and pressures on children and young people, their families, host communities and governments for more effective and inclusive responses.

Education in emergencies can be a pillar to recovery, self-reliance, and peaceful coexistence for children and young people fleeing conflict, persecution, or disaster. Once they arrive at their destination, education services may not be available, or they may face significant legal, administrative, economic, social, and cultural barriers to accessing them. For instance, language is often a learning barrier. This is the case for IDPs whose mother tongue may be from a different region or ethnicity to that of the hosting community, as well as for refugees who cross international language borders. For refugee girls, it is often difficult to find – and keep – a place in the classroom. As they get older they tend to face more marginalisation, and the gender gap in secondary schools grows wider. Children and young people with disabilities, meanwhile, may find that local schools are not prepared to accommodate their needs. For both displaced and local children and young people, schools can get crowded, and teachers and resources may be insufficient and inappropriate. Where social dynamics are altered, this can lead to lower educational attainment, drop-out, and social tensions.

In 2018, 181 countries adopted the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) in response to these needs, including the growing disparities between the education of refugee and non-refugee children and young people. The international commitment seeks to ease pressure on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance and support the restoration of conditions in countries of origin to allow for safe returns.2 Through the Compact, the international community has rallied to set an ambitious agenda for increased funding, strengthened collaboration, and accelerated pace in realising refugees’ right to education. It calls for full equitable inclusion into national education systems, development of future training and higher education opportunities, and more timely and ample education responses. 

Danielle De La Fuente, Founder and CEO, Amal Alliance

What We Know

Urgent Actions



More children and young people are displaced today than ever before

The number of children forcibly displaced has doubled in just 10 years4

Compared to non-refugees, refugee children have significantly less access to education


*The members of the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies contributed their knowledge and expertise to this document. Contact us

  1. International Data Alliance for Children on the Move (IDAC) (2020). International Data Alliance for Children on the Move
  2. UNHCR (2018) Global Compact on Refugees. 
  3. UNHCR (2022) Persons who are forcibly displaced, stateless and others of concern to UNHCR
  4. IDAC (2020). 
  5. UNICEF (2021a). Child Displacement
  6. UNICEF (2021a).
  7. UNICEF (2021a).
  8. UNICEF (2022). Education, Children on the move and Inclusion in Education
  9. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (2022). Global Report on Internal Displacement 2022
  10. UNICEF (2021). Child Displacement
  11. IDMC (2022). Global Report on Internal Displacement 2022
  12. Refugee enrolment rates sourced from UNHCR (2021). UNHCR Education Report 2021: ‘Staying the course’ – The challenges facing refugee education; global education enrolment rates sourced from UNESCO Institute for Statistics ( Data as of September 2021.
  13. UNHCR (2021).
  14. Global Refugee Forum Education Co-Sponsorship Alliance and UNHCR (2019). Global Framework for Refugee Education.
  15. UNESCO (2018) Global Education Report 2019: Migration, displacement and education- Building Bridges, not Walls
  16. The World Bank and UNHCR (2021). The Global Cost of Inclusive Refugee Education
  17. The World Bank and UNHCR (2021).
  18. UNICEF (2022).