This report tells the stories of some of the world’s 6.4 million refugee children and adolescents under UNHCR’s mandate who are of primary and secondary school-going age, between 5 and 17. In addition, it looks at the educational aspirations of refugee youth eager to continue learning after secondary education, and examines the conditions under which those who teach refugees carry out their work.
Education data on refugee enrolments and population numbers is drawn from UNHCR’s population database, reporting tools and education surveys and refers to 2016. The report also references global enrolment data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics referring to 2015.
The world’s growing refugee crisis is not only about numbers. It is also about time. The fact that there are now 17.2 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate – half of them under the age of 18 – is dismaying.
Perhaps less immediately shocking, but hardly less distressing, is the statistic telling us that 11.6 million refugees were living in protracted displacement at the end of 2016; of this number, 4.1 million had been in exile for 20 years or more. For millions of young people, these are the years they should be spending in school, learning not just how to read, write and count but also how to inquire, assess, debate and calculate, how to look after themselves and others, how to stand on their own two feet. Yet these millions are being robbed of precious time.
The case for education is clear. Education gives refugee children, adolescents and youth a place of safety amid the tumult of displacement. It amounts to an investment in the future, creating and nurturing the scientists, philosophers, architects, poets, teachers, health-care workers and public servants who will rebuild and revitalize their countries once peace is established and they are able to return. The education of these young refugees is crucial to the peaceful and sustainable development of the places that have welcomed them, and to the future prosperity of their own countries.
Yet as this report reveals, compared to other children and youth around the world, the gap in opportunity for the 6.4 million school-age refugees under UNHCR’s mandate is growing ever wider.