In late May, the UN Refugee Agency released a report titled, “No More Excuses: Provide education to all forcibly displaced people” which calls for measures to provide refugee children and adolescents with access to quality education. Currently world numbers show that 50% of primary aged and 75% of secondary school aged refugee children are not enrolled in schools. In Pakistan, which hosts the world’s second largest number of refugees (at 1.5 million), only 40% of primary school aged refugees are enrolled in school.
According to the UNHCR, 2015 saw the highest numbers of forcibly displaced people since after the Second World War – an estimated 60 million people are currently displaced from their homes. Among these are also children and adolescents whose educational needs are not being met. When the SDGs talk of equality in universal access to primary and secondary schooling, these global targets also include refugee children. These kids are five time more likely to not be in school than non-refugee children.
86% of refugees are currently housed in developing countries where school access and enrolment rates are already low – only 60% of Pakistan’s population is reported to have ever attended school (PSLM, 2014).At selected refugee sites of Pakistan, primary school enrolment is 43% while less than 5% of the adolescents aged 12-17 were enroled.
Girls and women, who generally have lower literacy rates than boys and men of the same age, make up 70% of the global internally displaced population. And girls’ dropout rates can often reach 90%. In Pakistan, child marriage is cited as barriers to the continuation of education for Afghan refugee girls – they may be taken out of school to be married as early as grade six.
At the tertiary level, many asylum seekers may have difficulty registering at universities due to legal and/or cost barriers. They may be expected to pay international student fees or submit permanent residency cards. Recently, it was reported that the University of Peshawar denied degrees to Afghan students who had graduated from the University’s affiliated institutions because they failed to submit Proof of Registration cards and passports. In such events, it is important for the involved states to take responsibility and make a decision accordingly.
An example of good practice for Pakistan is that of Colombia which houses over 6 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and has a national plan for IDPs developed under the Constitutional Court’s ruling. The law states that all displaced children are eligible for free education and requires that schools enrol these children regardless of previous proof of education. Following these policies, the proportion of IDP children aged 5-17 years attending school went from 48% in 2007 to 86% in 2010.
Data collection has been slow in monitoring the progress of refugees and their access to basic humanitarian needs in host countries. While there may be some rough estimates of student enrolment, currently data on retention and learning rates is sparse. Data can also be skewed if refugee children are included within the EMIS but are not registered under refugee status. Hence, the report suggests that countries and government offices maintain monitoring of refugee specific data which also includes information of refugee protection.
Considering the extent of the refugee crisis, it is important that states take up responsibility since they have the capacity to accommodate the large numbers of people displaced. As seen in the Colombia example, it is also important that State Officials put forward inclusive policies – currently, only 21 of the over 50 countries who house refugees, have included IDP children in national laws and policies.
For more information, you can access the report, here.