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UNHCR – UNHCR calls for expanded access to education for refugees

Six-year-old Gambolibay Martha leads the other children singing during a pre-school class in Makpandu refugee camp in South Sudan. © UNHCR/Elizabeth Marie Stuart

NEW YORK, September 13, 2022 – Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton has voiced his support for calls for all refugee children and youth to receive a full-quality education, according to a new UNHCR report. Which reveals the urgent need for more international support directed to refugee students.

The report, No Exception: The Refugee Education Campaign, shows how data from more than 40 countries shows how refugees lag behind their non-refugee peers when it comes to enrolment at all levels of education.

The average primary school enrollment rate for refugee children in the 2020-2021 school year has broadly stabilized at 68 percent. But the enrollment rate drops sharply to 37 percent at the secondary level, which refugee students usually struggle with in order to reach that stage.

However, there has been good news in terms of higher education. Although the refugee enrollment level is only 6 percent, this rise represents a continuation of the upward trend of just 1 percent just a few years ago – justifying UNHCR’s optimism that its goal of reaching 15 percent in terms of tertiary enrollment by 2030 can be achieved.

The publication of the Commission’s annual education report comes as world leaders prepare to discuss the future of education at the “Education Transformation Summit” during the United Nations General Assembly sessions from 16-19 September.

Hamilton, who advocates for greater equality, equity and diversity in education as well as in motorsport, said he was “proud to give his voice” to the campaign to include refugee children and youth in national education systems, and not leave them on the sidelines.

In a speech at the end of the report, he said: “Education not only broadens people’s horizons and provides them with opportunities they would not otherwise have dreamed of, but also counteracts the harmful effects of injustice in general.”

He added: “It is not only about providing better life opportunities for young people and helping them to reach their goal and shape their future, but it is about the cumulative effects of that, such as having greater diversity in positions of leadership and influence, in the world of work, and in sports, culture and politics.”

Without Exception shows a group of young refugees from Sudan, Ukraine, Kenya and Myanmar seizing the various educational opportunities available to them, despite the disruption caused by forced displacement and the challenges of adapting to new – and not so new – conditions.

Also in the report, Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, noted that many countries have recently made remarkable progress in integrating refugee students into formal national education systems. tangible and sustainable, and emphasizing the gains we derive from their inclusion.” He added, “The saying ‘talents exist around the world but opportunities are not’ describes the reality of millions of refugee children. We need to bridge the widening gap between talent and opportunity.”

UNHCR advocates for the inclusion of refugees in national education systems from the onset of humanitarian emergencies, during situations of protracted displacement, and in long-term development planning processes. This requires more support in terms of teacher training and salary security, as well as new infrastructure, adequate and relevant educational materials, safe transportation to and from schools, access to exams and certificates, and bridging the digital divide affecting refugees, among others.

“Education is an investment in development, human rights and peace,” Grandi said. “Now is the time to invest in a human’s future – in the emerging builders, innovators and peacemakers.” “In the case of refugees, it is an investment in the people who will rebuild their countries when they are able to return safely to their homes,” he added.

Notes to editors

UNHCR’s Education Report 2022, Without Exception: The Refugee Education Campaign, tells the stories of some of the more than 10 million school-age refugee children under UNHCR’s mandate. The report also highlights the aspirations of young refugees keen to continue their education beyond secondary school, as well as the hopes and aspirations of students in refugee and host communities.

Data on refugee registration and numbers of people are from UNHCR’s in-country operations and refer to the 2020-2021 school year. The report also refers to the latest available data on school enrollment and out-of-school children and youth from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

The Commission’s report coincides with the “Education Transformation Summit” called by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, which will take place during the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly. The Summit aims to mobilize action, ambition, solidarity and solutions to transform education between now and 2030.

UNHCR also believes that focusing investment on countries with the largest refugee groups would yield significant gains. The annual cost of all refugee students in low-, middle- and high-income host countries is estimated at $4.85 billion, or a total of $63 billion over 13 years, from the first year of primary school to the last year of secondary school. However, low- and middle-income countries, which host half of school-age refugees, would need only 20 percent of this total. In other words, one-fifth of the total cost will cover more than 50 percent of the needs of school-age refugee children.

To view the report, please visit this link. For graphics, photos, social media content, translations, and other materials, click here. For more information about UNHCR’s work in education, please contact Becky Telford at [email protected].

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