Displaced children need quality education, JRS tells United Nations

Syrian children at a JRS class in Lebanon's Bekka Valley. Credit: Don Doll SJ/JRS
Syrian children at a JRS class in Lebanon's Bekka Valley. Credit: Don Doll SJ/JRS

Leaders from across the world will be gathering at the UN Headquarters in New York later this month for the first-ever United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants (19 September) and the US Leaders’ Summit on Refugees (20 September). Among the items on their agendas will be policies and commitments that can create significant change in the lives of displaced children who are currently out of school.

In anticipation of the Summits, Jesuit Refugee Service in the USA – as part of the Global Campaign for Education, a coalition of more than 80 members who are dedicated to ensuring universal quality education for all children – is urging the United Nations, the US Government and world leaders to accelerate progress towards universal access to education for displaced children.

“Today, 75 million children and adolescents aged 3-18 have had their education directly affected by emergencies and protracted crises,” says JRS-USA. “Of the more than 21 million refugees registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 3.6 million school-aged children are out of school. Only 50 percent of refugees or internally displaced persons are enrolled in primary school, 25 percent in secondary school and very few have access to pre-primary or tertiary education.”

An absolute necessity

Last May saw the launch of Education Cannot Wait, a new fund for education in emergencies, which provides a concrete platform for action to address the gap in financing in this sector. Ahead of the Summits this month, the Global Campaign for Education has asked world leaders to consider a number of recommendations. These include a commitment to deliver the $90 million pledged to the Education Cannot Wait fund and an assurance that at least an additional one million refugees gain access to education as a result of the US Leaders’ Summit.

“For children in crisis situations, education is an absolute necessity,” explains JRS. “In the midst of destruction, violence, and instability, school is a place of learning and opportunity, a sanctuary for healing and health, and a haven of normalcy and hope for the future. Neglecting a child’s right to education undermines not only their future, but also the future of their societies. Lack of education leaves children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including recruitment into armed groups, child labour and early marriage.”

While applauding United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President Barack Obama for their leadership in hosting these two important Summits and for taking the initiative in finding concrete solutions to the current refugee crisis, JRS says more needs to be done as a matter of urgency. “By making specific, measurable commitments and swiftly delivering increased funding for the Education Cannot Wait fund for education in emergencies, we can take significant steps to ensure that all displaced children and youth have access to quality education,” it says.

In the UK, agencies which support refugees - including JRS-UK and Jesuit Missions - will be taking part in an ecumenical service and march in London on Saturday 17 September to show support for refugees and migrants. And you can read the full list of recommendations to the delegates taking part in the Summits on 19 and 20 September on the JRS-USA website