The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report released on Saturday that more than half of the world’s 14.8 million school-aged refugee children are currently unable to access formal education.
According to the UN agency, this alarming situation not only endangers their future prospects but also threatens the attainment of crucial global development goals.
The 2023 UNHCR Refugee Education Report, compiled from data collected across over 70 nations hosting refugees, presents a troubling picture of the state of education for these vulnerable children. The report highlights a concerning trend. By the close of 2022, the number of school-aged refugees had risen by nearly 50 percent compared to the previous year, primarily due to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The report said that this surge has left more than 7 million children, or 51 percent, without access to any form of formal education.
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, expressed deep concern over the precipitous drop in enrollment rates as refugee students progress through the educational ladder.
“The higher up the educational ladder you go, the steeper the drop-off in numbers, because opportunities to study at secondary and tertiary level are limited,” Grandi said.
“Unless their access to education is given a major boost they will be left behind. This will not help meet other goals for employment, health, equality, poverty eradication and more,” he added.
The report also pointed out that the burden of educating forcibly displaced children disproportionately falls on the world’s poorest nations.
According to it, approximately 20 percent of refugees reside in the 46 least-developed countries globally, while over three-quarters live in low- and middle-income nations.
Grandi called for fully inclusive education systems, granting refugees the same rights and access as their host-country peers.
“Where refugee-hosting countries have implemented such policies, they need predictable, multi-year support from global and regional financial institutions, high-income states, and the private sector. We cannot expect overstretched countries with scarce resources to take the task on by themselves,” Grandi said.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR report also highlighted inspiring stories of school-aged refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and South Sudan who have triumphed over obstacles and excelled academically when given the chance. The report explores the educational situation of refugees in the Americas and Ukraine.
“If refugees are left behind, the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all will not be achieved, but when school-aged refugees are given access to education, they can thrive, with benefits for individuals, host states, and home countries,” the report said.