1239 GMT April 17, 2021
UNHCR report, Coming Together for Refugee Education, predicts that unless the international community takes immediate and bold steps against the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 on refugee education, the potential of millions of young refugees living in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities will be further threatened, un.org reported.
“After everything they have endured, we cannot rob them of their futures by denying them an education today,” UNHCR Commissioner Filippo Grandi said in a news release announcing the findings.
“Despite the enormous challenges posed by the pandemic, with greater international support to refugees and their host communities, we can expand innovative ways to protect the critical gains made in refugee education over the past years,” he added.
The report, based on 2019 data from twelve countries hosting more than half of the world’s refugee children, also showed that while there is 77 percent gross enrolment at the primary school level, the figure drops to 31 percent in secondary and only three percent at high-school levels.
Far behind global averages, these statistics nevertheless do represent progress: Enrolment in secondary education rose, with tens of thousands of refugee children newly attending school — a two percent increase in 2019 alone.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic now threatens to undo this and other crucial advances, including efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all.
Girls under threat
According to UNHCR, for refugee girls — who already have less access to education than boys and are half as likely to be enrolled in school by the time they reach secondary level — the threat is particularly grave.
Based on UNHCR data, the Malala Fund has estimated that as a result of COVID-19, half of all refugee girls in secondary school will not return when classrooms reopen this month. For countries where refugee girls’ gross secondary enrolment was already less than 10 percent, all girls are at risk of dropping out for good, a chilling prediction that would have an impact for generations to come.
“Not only is education a human right, but the protection and economic benefits to refugee girls, their families, and their communities of education are clear. The international community simply cannot afford to fail to provide them with the opportunities that come through education,” said Grandi.
Give children a chance
In a powerful final word to the report, the Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR Ambassador for the Instant Network Schools Programme, and global football star, Mohamed Salah, said, “Ensuring quality education today means less poverty and suffering tomorrow.”
He called on everyone to “work as a team.”
“Unless everyone plays their part, generations of children — millions of them in some of the world’s poorest regions — will face a bleak future. But if we work as a team, as one, we can give them the chance they deserve to have a dignified future. Let’s not miss this opportunity,” added Salah.