Part I: War Refugees and Education
If you look at the ‘great wars’, it’s easy to identify a beginning and end point. For example, World War II began with the German invasion of Poland in September of 1939 and ended in May (or June, depending on the front) of 1946 . Today’s conflicts have no easy ends—nor are they that concise or have as “clean” and clear of an ending anymore. In fact, the average modern conflict lasts seventeen years —a refugee child of conflict emerges from the ashes an adult; an adult most likely robbed of a complete or quality education- ill equipped to fully contribute to their society or earn a substantial living. In today’s world of myriad violent clashes, there is no shortage of refugees and youth in desperate need of schooling. Indeed, the importance of refugee education systems cannot be overstated or overlooked.
Across the globe, 91% of children living in conflict-free areas attend primary school. 84% attend secondary school, and 34% continue on to get a higher education. In refugee communities, however, the numbers drop drastically: 50% attend primary school, 22% attend secondary school, and a mere 1% carry on to receive a higher education. Would you settle knowing that only one of your two children learned how to read? And only one of four could perform more than basic math operations? If you’re reading this, then you personally know that education is important for a large number of reasons. In addition to the fact that schools are often the only safe place, a child might visit each day, attending school also directly contributes to a reduction in the likelihood of child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and child labor. Life-altering occurrences that refugee children are at an even higher risk of than their school-aged peers.
Despite the widely-known and accepted benefits of attending school, there are a number of barriers that most, if not all, refugee students and communities have to overcome in order to secure an education. First, host countries often lack sufficient resources (including teachers, supplies, bathrooms, etc.) and funding, and may largely depend on the generosity of the international community or already small education budgets of their host countries. Second, a refugee student may have to first learn a new language in order to attend school or face resistance at home if the school is taught by teachers of a different religion, gender, or culture. Third, a host country’s environment may be inhospitable to refugees due to prejudices and policies perpetuated by the government that legally prevent refugees from accessing an equivalent education to the ones their citizens enjoy. Unfortunately, due to the reasons above, many host countries have seen massive failure as they strive to implement their programs.
However, all is not so dark; and we must not despair, as some countries lead the vanguard in providing education to all. In future blog posts we will do a deep dive into the current barriers to education as well as beneficial policies and programs that are changing lives, one child at a time; so stay tuned and remain engaged!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Humanity Helping Sudan Project.