LOS ANGELES, California — On July 7, 2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the international network of independent organizations known as Teach For All announced a joint endeavor that would significantly help the refugee community. By providing education for refugees whose displacement hinders their ability to find opportunities for higher education, this initiative allows refugees educational empowerment. In doing so, both organizations wish to see the employment prospects of refugees improve as improving their financial wellbeing bolsters growing economies around the world.
From Classes To Paychecks
Current progress stems from a combination of programs that UNHCR and Teach For All have been using since before their partnership. UNHCR provides the bulk of financial support through the scholarships of its Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI). While this has the most direct role in expanding education for refugees, Teach For All’s new role is to supplement DAFI with access to their “teaching and leadership development program” to help with navigating a post-graduation environment.
“This important commitment recognizes the immense potential for refugees to transition from higher education into the job market and to enable them to become active members of their host countries,” writes Teach For All’s newsletter on their partnership’s ultimate goal. With transitional assistance on hand, refugees can enjoy a straight pipeline from expanding their range of marketable skills to making the most of their credentials.
This pipeline will funnel some refugees back into the program to improve its efficacy. Select graduates join Teach For All’s fellowship program to help serve as leaders and representatives for younger refugees moving through their education and into their jobs.
Of all the forms of aid a disadvantaged refugee can receive, education is the most mutually beneficial for the student and their host country. World Bank statistics indicate that economic returns on education peak in college, with students being on track to improve their earnings by 17% for every year they work toward a degree. A 68% increase in average earnings for every student with a four-year degree allows them to achieve a greater quality of life while stimulating the economy with better access to the labor market.
Considering the potential of education to impact economic growth, education for refugees is a vast source of untapped potential. As of now, college enrollment rates for young refugees only goes up to 3%, hence the UNHCR’s goal of raising this number to 15% as part of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Further benefits are a matter of integration. Both the UNHCR and Teach For All see their fostering of college experiences among refugees as a step towards cementing their inclusion among the communities hosting them. Scholarships facilitate this end, granting access to the institutions of a host country without requiring that education for refugees take place outside the system other students use.
“Leave No One Behind”
Development goals from the UNHCR and Teach For All’s organization derive from the Global Compact of Refugees and reflect how job assistance provides a major supplement to what scholarships can accomplish. Among the priorities of the Compact that inform the 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development are:
- “Ease the pressures on host countries.”
- “Enhance refugee self-reliance.”
- “Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.”
The conditions for achieving a higher education for refugees ideally help foster the development of education in lower-income countries simultaneously. As such, local institutions can play a key role in cycling displaced citizens back into their economy. The UNHCR nonetheless includes more difficult cases among its list of beneficiaries, such as those they identify as stateless.
A guiding philosophy behind this approach is “inclusion,” a pushback against compensating for a lack of education for refugees by meeting their needs under a fundamentally separate system. A pipeline from affordable education to job training thus mitigates the long-term friction that may occur from needing to integrate with society later in life.
Teach For All is working to ensure that a refugee’s educational opportunities are as close to home as feasible. Their use of refugees as fellowship instructors is a facet of how their component organizations distribute themselves across the world. Before partnering with the UNHCR, each of its 60 independent organizations operated by using the global reach of several local entities to increase connectivity between countries that struggle to provide education for all their inhabitants. Sharing expertise across this network would thus increase the efficacy of educational programs across the world, just as it is now working to increase the efficacy of DAFI.
“This exciting partnership with Teach For All will help refugee graduates to transition into the job market and fulfill their immense potential as active members of their host communities,” says Rebecca Telford, chief of education for the UNCHR. Even so, said partnership remains in its infancy as a series of test cases drawing from the fraction of Teach For All chapters in Africa. If the partnership’s trial run in Africa finds success, there are plans to expand its scope to help with meeting enrollment goals for 2030. The groundwork for such an expansion already exists due to Teach For All’s presence in countries outside the trial zone, ensuring the partnership has significant room to grow
– Samuel Katz