Education in Emergencies & Children on the Move
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.
What We Know
Internally displaced and refugee children and young people have a right to quality inclusive education no matter their status.
Their right to and need for quality inclusive education does not pause in times of emergency and displacement. Rather, they become even more important. Access to inclusive and equitable quality education in national systems creates conditions in which children and young people can learn, thrive, develop their potential, build individual and collective resilience, experience and negotiate peaceful coexistence, and contribute to their societies.
Access to quality inclusive education can enhance internally displaced and refugee children and young people’s self-reliance.
The knowledge and skills acquired in education, as well as accredited non-formal education programmes, can enable internally displaced and refugee children and young people to become lifelong learners, and increase their opportunities to lead productive and independent lives.
IDPs and refugee children and young people that learn in their mother tongue can achieve better learning outcomes.
In Sudan, refugee-hosting schools, with teachers recruited from the refugee population, have been established to help South Sudanese and non-Arab speaking refugees integrate into the national system and engage with host communities. Nigeria supports IDPs learning in their mother tongue at early grade levels, progressively becoming proficient in English at higher grade levels.
When internally displaced and refugee children and young people go to school alongside locals, it can benefit both.
Quality and inclusive education can connect displaced children and young people with their host community’s culture and language, facilitating integration. Moreover, inclusive education can address the needs of both displaced and host communities, those with disabilities, girls and young women, as well as tackle prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination and violence – improving social cohesion and coexistence.
Increase funding and capacity to include all refugee children and young people in national education systems.
In line with the Global Compact on Refugees’ call to action, states and donors should provide multi-year funding to reinforce national education systems and capacities to realise displaced children and young people’s right to education, both in law and in practice. Schools need to be open to all children and young people regardless of their legal status. Fees and other barriers to access need to be removed, educational participation encouraged, and prior qualifications recognized.
Strengthen education programming to address the needs of internally displaced, refugee and host communities.
Good practises in inclusive education include: boosting displaced girls’ education at all levels; the inclusion of students with disabilities in host communities; accelerated learning programmes; innovative approaches to increase the quality of learning for all; increasing teacher provision from refugee/IDP populations; teacher training; improving technical education and vocational training programmes; providing scholarship opportunities to higher education; and promoting partnerships to leverage domestic capacities and resources.
Improve timing and amplify education responses in emergencies.
Humanitarian and development actors should work together with the leadership of national, local and regional governments to enhance the quality, coordination and implementation of education responses to emergencies. This can be done through joint analysis and planning, and by ensuring broad funding mechanisms.
Improve coordination of data collection on internally displaced and refugee children and young people.
Governments, international organisations, NGOs, think tanks, academics, and civil society need to collaborate to solve the challenges around collecting regular, relevant, disaggregated data on displaced children and young people.
GET THE FACTS
More children and young people are displaced today than ever before
The number of children forcibly displaced has doubled in just 10 years4
- By the end of 2021, 10.8 million children were refugees.5
- Together with 1.8 million Palestinian refugee children under the protection of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), there were approximately 12.5 million children living as refugees worldwide by the end of 2021.6
- 1.2 million children sought asylum abroad by the end of 2021.7
- Only 1 in 10 refugees are hosted by high-income countries. High-income countries, except Germany and Turkey, are hosting disproportionately low numbers of refugees.8
- At the end of 2021, 59.1 million people were living as IDPs globally; 25.2 million of them being children under 18 years old.9
- These include 22.8 million children aged 0-18 displaced within their own country by violence and conflict in 2021, and 2.4 million displaced by natural disasters.10
- There are important information gaps about the sex, age, disability status, education, and other characteristics of IDPs worldwide.11
Compared to non-refugees, refugee children have significantly less access to education
- Only 68% of refugee children have access to primary education, compared to 90% of children globally. That drops to 34% for secondary education, against 66% globally, and 5% for tertiary education against 40% globally (as of the end of 2020).12
- Refugee girls lag behind boys when it comes to access to education. At primary level, enrolment rates for refugees were 70% for boys and 67% for girls; at secondary level, the rates were 35% and 31%, respectively.13
- Refugee children and young people continue to face specific challenges and barriers to accessing or completing school in their host country. These include missed months or years of school, being overage for their grade, the need to learn new languages, missing documentation, protection issues, transportation limitations, economic pressures, discrimination and stigmatization, trauma, and the need for access to psychosocial support, among many others.14
- Major displacement poses challenges for teacher recruitment, retention, and training. If all refugees enrolled, Turkey would need 80,000 additional teachers, Germany would need 42,000 teachers and educators, and Uganda would need 7,000 additional primary teachers.15
- Between $4.4 billion and $5.11 billion per year is the estimated cost of providing education to all refugee learners in low, lower-middle, and upper-middle-income host countries, according to a recent study by The World Bank and UNHCR.16
- Refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country. Refugees are defined and protected in international law under the 1951 Refugee Convention and subsequent protocols and conventions governing aspects of refugee status.
- Asylum-seekers are people who have sought international protection and whose claims of refugee status have not yet been determined.
- Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, but who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border, generally as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters.
*The members of the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies contributed their knowledge and expertise to this document. Contact us.
- International Data Alliance for Children on the Move (IDAC) (2020). International Data Alliance for Children on the Move
- UNHCR (2018) Global Compact on Refugees.
- UNHCR (2022) Persons who are forcibly displaced, stateless and others of concern to UNHCR
- IDAC (2020).
- UNICEF (2021a). Child Displacement
- UNICEF (2021a).
- UNICEF (2021a).
- UNICEF (2022). Education, Children on the move and Inclusion in Education
- Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (2022). Global Report on Internal Displacement 2022
- UNICEF (2021). Child Displacement
- IDMC (2022). Global Report on Internal Displacement 2022
- 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 (uis.unesco.org). Data as of September 2021.
- UNHCR (2021).
- Global Refugee Forum Education Co-Sponsorship Alliance and UNHCR (2019). Global Framework for Refugee Education.
- UNESCO (2018) Global Education Report 2019: Migration, displacement and education- Building Bridges, not Walls
- The World Bank and UNHCR (2021). The Global Cost of Inclusive Refugee Education
- The World Bank and UNHCR (2021).
- UNICEF (2022).