“With the displaced population rising every year, there is a significant and increasing proportion of the world’s children who are missing out on their education,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday that by the end of 2022, the total number of school-aged refugees globally jumped nearly 50 per cent from 10 million in 2021 to 14.8 million, driven mostly by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a new Education Policy Brief – Education on Hold – UNHCR reported that only around half of Ukrainian refugee children were enrolled in schools in host countries, for the 2022-2023 academic year.
The factors contributing to low enrolment rates include administrative, legal and language barriers and a lack of information on available education options.
According to UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler, many parents are hesitant to enroll their children in host countries as they hope to return home soon to Ukraine or “there is an uncertainty about eventual reintegration into the Ukrainian education system.”
Furthermore, many countries of asylum often lack the physical space or number of teachers to take on more pupils, particularly lower income States.
“With the ongoing full-scale war in Ukraine, major efforts are required to avoid long-term damage to children’s learning, potential and prospects,” said Mr. Spindler.
“Unless urgent action is taken, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugee children will continue to miss out on education this year.”
On a global scale, more than three quarters of refugees live in low to middle-income countries, meaning that the cost of educating refugee populations falls on some of the world’s poorest nations.
The 2023 UNHCR Refugee Education Report, which draws on data from more than 70 refugee-hosting countries noted that refugee enrolment in education varies dramatically by level as a full 65 per cent of children complete primary school but only six per cent go to university.
“The higher up the educational ladder you go, the steeper the drop-off in numbers, because opportunities to study at secondary and tertiary level are limited,” said Filippo Grandi.
He added that unless access to education is given a boost, refugees children will be “left behind.”