Three UN Refugee Agencies Insist On Education Amendments For Refugees In Europe

UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM are admonishing European governments to revamp education for refugee and migrant children as they name some of the challenges faced by these children. These include inadequate school spaces, language barriers, inadequate teacher training and limited access to psychosocial support. Most importantly, there are limited catch-up classes for children who have missed extended periods of schooling or who have come from different education systems. Naturally, this has resulted in these children having a lower level of learning.

During the 11 September 2019 meeting in Brussels and Geneva, the UN Refugee Agency, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the International Organization for Migration, respectively the UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM, outlined the educational barriers that non-European children experience. Recent statistics revealed that the number of refugee and asylum-seeking migrant children and adolescents who drop out of school has doubled geometrically in comparison with native Europeans.

The reports added, pre-primary age children between 3 to 5 years old and upper-secondary age children of 15 years age and older are particularly vulnerable to being out of school. This is mainly because the scope of national legislation on compulsory education is different.

Elaborating on pertinent applicable recommendations, Pascale Moreau, UNHCR Director of the Bureau for Europe stated, “For refugee children, education is not only vital for their futures but for the communities in which they live. Quality education boosts life chances, eases integration, and is a win-win for the student and society. Investing in education for all is one of the best investments a government can make.”

Emphasizing with conviction, Ms Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe proposed: “With political will and additional investments, Governments across Europe can build inclusive public-school systems, ensuring all children, regardless of their migration status have their right to an education protected, while building inclusive and successful communities.”

Manfred Profazi, IOM Senior Regional Adviser for Europe and Central Asia explained in detail some of the benefits of education for refugee children: “Eliminating gaps in refugee and migrant children’s education is critical to their development and well-being and this can have a positive knock-on effect for society in general. Education also has the cohesive power to help refugee and migrant children and their families build links to the local communities and to contribute. Investing in inclusive and quality education will help us to meet our responsibility to ensure that no generation is left behind.”

In line with these agencies, European nations and the international community should promulgate educational policies with defined strategies on how to support schools for all children. This has to be in connection with other ministries like that of health. This should be centred around the integration of young people into upper-secondary education and training programmes. Finally, quality standardized and harmonized data on these children should be gathered as a tool to inform policy development and allocation of resources.

Sarah Namondo