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Half of World’s Refugee Children Cannot Access Education – UNHCR Warns

Millions of refugee children in the world are missing out on education, with the UNHCR now sending out an appeal to host countries create more inclusive policies to prevent them from “languishing” in camps for years and losing hope.

A young Burundian refugee completes an exercise on a blackboard at Jugudi Primary School in Nyarugusu Refugee Camp, Kigoma Province, north-west Tanzania. (February 2019)Photo by UNHCR/Farha Bhoyroo

The UN says more than half of the 7.1 million refugee youngsters of school age, do not attend lessons.

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The barriers that prevent them from accessing learning become harder to overcome as they get older, the report shows.

Only six in 10 refugee children attend primary school – compared to nine in 10 globally – and only around two in 10 refugees get a secondary education, compared to the world average of more than eight in 10.

The trend is even clearer in higher education, where only three in every 100 refugee children are able to pursue their learning, compared with the world average of 37 in 100.

“It’s not just sad, but it’s also dumb,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the agency’s High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, told journalists in Geneva.

“Not investing in refugees, people who have fled war zones is not investing very simply in the future of its people; the people have to be the future teachers, architects, the peacemakers, artists, politicians who are interested in reconciliation, not revenge.”

The UNCHR report says the problem mainly affects poorer countries which offer shelter to families fleeing conflict and natural disasters, despite frequently lacking sufficient resources themselves.

In wealthy regions such as Europe, most countries have placed refugee children into mainstream education, Ms. Fleming explained, with the exception of Greece and a handful of Balkan States, “where refugees are in limbo and still seeking asylum”.

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