Overcoming Education Challenges for Refugee Children


SEATTLE — Nearly half of refugee children do not attend school – that’s 3.5 million young people living without the ability to obtain an education. Without an education, refugee children are faced with the obvious challenges of finding work and earning a living. Additionally, those not enrolled in a stable education program may become more likely to make risky decisions, embark on dangerous journeys, be exploited, trafficked or forced into labor. There is a lot of the work to be done to in order to alleviate these problems and here is a look at some of the key individuals and organizations leading the way.

  • Sarah Dryden-Peterson is an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institute. She dedicates her work to numerous areas of focus, including the role of social institutions in refugee education. She also specializes in Sub-Saharan Africa and African diaspora communities in the United States and Canada. Dryden-Peterson compiled the field studies and the personal interviews attributed toward implementing the 2012-2016 UNHCR education strategy in 14 priority countries: Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen.
  • John Sexton was NYU Law School’s Dean Emeritus until January 2016. Now, he serves as the Chief Executive and Trustee for the Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education, an organization working to expand access to high-quality education for young people around the world. Currently, half of all refugee children do not attend primary school and Sexton, along with the foundation, is determined to raise the funds to provide the seed money necessary to start new projects, increase enrollment numbers and cultivate permanent change.
  • The Global Partnership for Education supports 65 developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education. They are using Facebook to connect students, mentors and sponsors in Afghanistan, one of the 3 countries from which over 50 percent of the world’s refugees originate. The partnership is committed to ensuring children with disabilities also receive an education and breaking cycles of discrimination while simultaneously working to end the issues surrounding education for the world’s refugees.
  • The Global Business Coalition for Education has become part of the global movement of businesses committed to improving children’s lives through education. The coalition connects the philanthropic efforts of like-minded businesses, and emphasizing the economic benefits that result from universal quality education. Founding members of the coalition provided the leadership and resources necessary to begin the collaboration in 2012. Founding companies include Accenture, Grupo Carso, Chevron Corporation, Dangote Industries, Discovery Communications Inc., Econet Wireless Group, GUCCI, Hess Corporation, Intel Corporation, Lenovo Group Limited, McKinsey & Co, Inc., Pearson PLC, Reed Smith LLP, Tata Sons Limited, and the Western Union.

Globally, the refugee crisis impacts millions— in fact, there are approximately 65.3 million displaced worldwide. Specific to education, less than one percent of college-aged refugees are enrolled in university courses, which is well below the global average of 34 percent.

Along with world leaders and governments, the UNHCR, The U.N. Agency which has been protecting and assisting world refugees since 1950, relies on support and contributions from individuals and leading businesses. With continued efforts of raising awareness for refugee education and the added support of others, millions of displaced refugee children may one day be able to start a new life, complete with the possibility of obtaining a quality education.

Ashley Henyan

Photo: Flickr


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