An additional half a million more refugee children are out of school in 2017

UNHCR’s new education report out today, Turn the tide: Refugee education in crisis, makes for sober reading. By the end of 2017, there were more than 25.4 million refugees around the world, more than half of whom are children.

The new data shows that only 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, compared to 92 per cent of children globally. This leaves four million refugee children out of school, half a million more than the year before.

Enrolment rates for refugees drop drastically in secondary education, and only 1% of refugees attend higher education, a figure that has not changed in three years.


UNHCR’s report also reminds us that countries in developing regions host 92% of the world’s school-age refugees. The implication here is of the need for more sustained financial support from the international community to help these countries take on the challenge.

Any talk of funding must bring us back to the continued plight of UNRWA, the other main UN agency supporting refugees, those from Palestine. As we have noted before on this blog, US aid cuts to the agency risk huge implications for the more than half a million Palestinian refugee students it supports.

Continue reading

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Charting the Pacific: the importance of national monitoring reports for mapping education trends and challenges in the region

In this blog, the Pacific Community’s Education Quality and Assessment Program explain the way they support governments from across the region in producing national education monitoring reports, and how improved data collection and analysis at the national level is essential for responding to challenges in education.

The unique Pacific region is made up of tens of thousands of islands, scattered over an area equivalent to 15% of the globe’s surface, and home to 11.4 million people of which almost three quarters live in one country, Papua New Guinea. Despite their cultural and linguistic diversity, the Pacific Island countries and territories that are members of the Pacific Community share several challenges in their efforts to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade and fragile environments.

Against this backdrop, education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality and laying a foundation for sustained economic growth. While there has been improvement in access to education, gender parity and monitoring of learning outcomes, many countries have not yet achieved universal primary and lower secondary education. To effectively respond to their education challenges, national governments and their partners require data and analysis to inform policy decisions. Continue reading

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South Africa’s private sector calls for an end to pit latrines in schools

president rsa

Image: GCIS

Reports of children dying by falling into pit latrines in South Africa over the past few years followed by a flurry of legal cases saw the President launch a new Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) Initiative last week in partnership with the private sector. It is a response to “an urgent human need”, he said, that would “spare generations of young South Africans the indignity, discomfort and danger of using pit latrines and other unsafe facilities in our schools”.

South Africa has nearly 4,000, mostly rural and township, schools that only have pit latrines or other inappropriate sanitation facilities. Following an appeal to the private sector, various companies and organizations pledged almost R45 million ($3 million), as well as the pro bono provision of professional and technical services that will enable the implementation of SAFE projects. As part of this initiative, companies will build new-technology toilets for schools or adopt groups of schools as model schools for joint sanitation-water-energy off-grid solutions. Continue reading

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Only a quarter of Rohingya refugees’ education needs have been met

rohinga refugees

The refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/Norwegian Refugee Council.

This time a year ago, the mass exodus of refugees began from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. But one year on and only a quarter of the funds requested by 11 partners to cover their education needs have been provided: US$11.7 million of $47.3 million.

This is despite the requirements for education being modest relative to those for other sectors. US$240 million is requested for food security, US$113 million for health, and US$137 million for water, sanitation and hygiene.

rohinga refugees 2.jpgIn total, nearly 1 million refugees from Myanmar are currently sheltering in Bangladesh. Education for these families is critical. Half of the refugees are children and youth between 3-24 years yet they are not allowed to pursue formal education in Bangladesh. It is estimated that 5,000 equipped classrooms are needed to meet these children’s needs.

Only informal education is available through temporary learning centres provided by Save the Children, UNICEF and local Bangladeshi organisations, including BRAC, and in religious schools or ‘maktabs’ which offer Arabic language and Quranic education. Their work is notable. By July, for instance, UNICEF were operating some 1,200 learning centres which were catering to 140,000 children. Continue reading

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A teacher hero – making home-made desks for refugee children with disabilities

1Rahman Hamdan is a teacher in an UNRWA school in Gaza who has made desks and chairs for children with disabilities. Often, physical barriers are enough for a child living with a disability to be turned away or to feel excluded from education. In this UNWRA school, with no funds available to buy his children the equipment they needed to access education in a dignified way, Mr Hamdan used pieces of broken school chairs and desks, as well as unused office chairs, car seats and other recycled materials to do the work himself.


©UNRWA – Vivian Alt, Disability Advisor

In the photo on the left, a car seat has been used to make sitting at the desk comfortable for students with physical impairments. The car seat enables the student to move closer to the desk and they can adjust the level of inclination according to their needs. The top of the desk also moves up and down to facilitate seating and moving, i.e. if the child has crutches or a wheelchair.


©UNRWA – Vivian Alt, Disability Advisor

He made a desk (right) for pupils with visual impairments that inclines, so that it doesn’t hurt the students’ backs when reading and writing up close to their books. The top of the desk also moves up and down and is adjustable according to the height, or other needs of the child. In addition, the chair has wheels so the student can move its desk close to the board if needed then back to his place in class. Continue reading

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Schools for 2000 children in Kenya’s Kibera slum bulldozed to the ground

kibera ghettoFamilies in Kibera slum, Nairobi, were given two weeks before their houses, shops and schools were demolished by bulldozers at the end of July to make way for a $20 million new dual-carriageway. The demolition plan included the following schools, with the following numbers of pupils, about to take their end-of-term exams.

Egesa Children Centre – 180 children – Demolished
I love Africa Somi School – 530 children
Makina Self Help School – 150 Children – Demolished
Mashimoni Primary School – 200 children – Demolished
Mashimoni Squatters School – 576 children
New Adventure Pride Centre – 200 children – Demolished
PEFA Church School – 120 children – Demolished

The forced eviction, condemned strongly by Amnesty International, has left about 10,000 of the city’s urban poor homeless, although the government has said only 2,000 households were affected and a resettlement plan for those evicted had been completed. According to the Kenya Urban Roads Authority: “You cannot compensate someone for land that they do not own because they do not have title deeds. We will however give out something ‘small’ to help the residents relocate.Continue reading

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Announcing a new GEM Report Fellowship Programme

gemr_en.pngA new GEM Report Fellowship programme has just been launched thanks to the support of the Open Society Foundations. The Fellowship aims to strengthen the evidence base on comparative education.

The first call for fellowships has just been put online with applications expected by September 28. Such calls will be issued twice a year with the aim of hosting an average of three fellows per year in the team. Fellowships will typically provide or contribute to the funding for fellows to conduct their research and build their networks for one year, of which at least one month would be spent at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.  Continue reading

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