Nearly 50 million children have either migrated or been forcefully displaced. Despite their refugee status these are children who need protection and support in accessing the services such as education that will ensure they have a better and brighter future.
Children refugees are among the most vulnerable and with the total number of refugees continuing to exponentially increase there is dire need to initiate very specific and deliberate efforts towards protecting this vulnerable group.
According to UNICEF’s article on The Growing Crisis for Refugee and Migrant Children, the uprooting, disruption and insecurity inherent in refugee situations can harm children’s physical, intellectual, psychological, cultural and social development. These factors are severely compounded when, in addition, children suffer or witness the torture or murder of family members or other forms of abuse or violence. Further, the parents are already psychologically distressed and this can result in child abuse, abandonment, family strife and other forms of family disintegration. Children are affected not only by what happens to them, but by what they are deprived of, for example missing out on developmental essentials such as play and school.
Existing interventions towards protecting children include efforts by UNICEF on several fronts. First, to protect child refugees and migrants from exploitation and violence by strengthening protection systems, clamping down on trafficking through enhanced law enforcement and systematic appointment of qualified guardians. Second, ending the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing alternatives such as foster care and supervised independent living for unaccompanied and separated children. Third, to keep families together as the best way to protect children and give them legal status. This touches on the concern of children becoming stateless owing to lack of documentation and registration. These are only three of many interventions that continue to be introduced.
“The returns on investing in education are immense and far-reaching…It gives children the opportunity to make friends and find mentors, and provides them with the skills for self-reliance, problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork. It improves their job prospects and boosts confidence and self-esteem.” UNHCR: Missing Out, Refugee Education in Crisis
I truly believe that education is the most sustainable effort and intervention to ensure that refugee children have a better future for themselves and therefore become solutions to their countries of origin. Sadly only 1% of all refugees will make it to university level globally.According to a report by UNHCR, traditionally refugee education has not featured in national development plans or in education planning until recently when some developed countries such as Cameroon,Chad,Niger,Pakistan and South Sudan have included refugees in provincial or national multi-year education sector plans.
There is room for more intentional and deliberate effort on both policy and grassroots levels because without access to education we are perpetuating a crisis that may not be as easily remedied in the future.