COVID-19 presents a dire threat to refugee education worldwide, according to a report by the UN Refugee Agency. With closure of schools and cancellation of exams, COVID-19 has played havoc with children’s education worldwide. According to UN figures, around 1.6 billion learners across the world, including millions of refugees, have had their education disrupted. The report “Coming Together for Refugee Education” notes that half of all refugee children are out of school and calls for immediate and bold action by the international community to beat back the catastrophic effects of the coronavirus. The data in the report is based on the gross enrolment figures from the 2019 school cycle.
“After everything they have endured, we cannot rob them of their futures by denying them an education today,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said in a statement, calling for action to support refugees’ right to an education. While children in every country have struggled with the impact of COVID-19 on their education, the report finds that refugee children have been particularly disadvantaged. Before the pandemic, a refugee child was twice as likely to be out of school as a non-refugee child. This is set to worsen; many may not have opportunities to resume their studies due to school closures, difficulties affording fees, uniforms or books, lack of access to technologies or because they are being required to work to support their families.
Based on UNHCR data, the Malala Fund has estimated that as a result of COVID-19, half of all refugee girls in secondary school will not return when classrooms reopen this month. And in countries where less than 10% of refugee girls were enrolled in secondary school, all of them were at risk of dropping out for good.
During the lockdown, refugees and teachers, governments, UNHCR’s partners, all came up with various resourceful ways to keep education going. They ranged from Egypt moving its entire curriculum online, to a teacher in Dadaab refugee camp broadcasting lessons over a local radio station. The report highlights several examples of innovative and collaborative ways refugees and teachers, with the support of governments and UNHCR’s partners, kept going during the lockdown. Like mobile classrooms in Bolivia, new roles for parent-teacher associations in Chad, and a learning content platform in Uganda that has found a way around the obstacle of low or no connectivity.