BEIRUT, Lebanon — According to the U.N., education is a fundamental human right and it is essential that all people have access to education, yet millions of refugees in the Middle East and North Africa are denied educational opportunities.
This makes education for refugees is a major concern for countries in poverty. There are more than 16 million refugees, with six million between the ages of five and 17. As stated by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 91 percent of children around the world attend primary school, but only 50 percent of refugee children attend primary school, and those who do attend are unlikely to complete secondary school. This means that there are more than 3.7 million refugees that have no school to go to and refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school.
Without education, refugee families in poverty will face long-term economic and social risks. There are already very few jobs for refugees in host countries, and this poverty trap further perpetuates poor living conditions for refugees. Education for refugees is absolutely crucial since schooling can create more opportunities for people who are displaced.
The UNHCR states that education “can foster social cohesion, provide access to life-saving information, address psychosocial needs, and offer a stable and safe environment for those who need it most. It also helps people to rebuild their communities and pursue productive, meaningful lives.”
Nonprofit organizations are taking initiative on education for refugees in order to increase schooling opportunities and improve attendance rates. In 2016, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) partnered with other organizations and helped more than 680,000 refugee children enroll in formal education across the Middle East and North Africa. Sources state that in 2017, UNICEF and other partners hope to see a further one million children enroll in formal education.
Additionally, the World Bank has recently announced that it will be putting $100 million into Lebanese schools. The main goal is to help all Lebanese and Syrian children in Lebanon gain access to education. The World Bank and the Lebanese government will work together to provide quality education through the second Reaching All Children with Education (RACE II) plan. Strategies include supporting large hosting communities and restoring education, energy and water resources.
In Lebanon, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education has already helped more than 200,000 Syrian children enroll in formal schools in 2016 by providing resources and accessible curriculums. However, the World Bank hopes to ensure through its plan that the rest of the refugee children in Lebanon are likely to gain the education they need by the end of 2017.
The World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim states, “We will not stand by when there’s a danger of a lost generation of Syrian children as well as the potential for a reversal of Lebanon’s achievements in education.”
Similar movements are seen in other countries. UNICEF is working closely in places such as Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The UNHCR is taking action in countries like Jordan and Kenya. Through the help of nonprofits and the global community, more opportunities can be created in education for refugees.
– Morgan Leahy