Urban Refugee Education: A report

This week, we share the first ever global study on urban refugee education. This report, “Urban Refugee Education: Strengthening Policies and Practices for Access, Quality, and Inclusion,” is based on a study conducted by Mary Mendenhall, Susan Garnett Russell, and Elizabeth Bruckner of Teachers College, Columbia University.  The authors surveyed 190 professionals working with UN agencies as well as national and international NGOs that help deliver education services to refugee populations in 16 countries. They also conducted an in-depth study of urban refugees in Beirut, Nairobi, and Quito. The authors discovered that, as refugees blend into poor, urban communities, they experience the problems afflicting other marginalized and vulnerable groups in the host population. Minors often need to work and earn money rather than attend school, or they lack safe transportation to and from school. Local schools are often too crowded to enroll refugee students, or they lack adequate supplies and trained teachers.

As the authors share in the Executive Summary,

The image of refugees living together in camps is no longer the norm. Sixty percent of today’s refugees live scattered and embedded across large urban areas. The urbanization of refugees is creating new obstacles for refugee children who find it difficult or impossible to attend school, even though they are entitled by international law to do so. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, half the world’s displaced people are children under 18. Half of refugee children are enrolled in primary school, 22 percent in secondary school and only one percent in higher education. Adding to the complications of urbanization, longer conflicts have increased the average worldwide duration of refugee status to 20 years. Millions of refugee children are spending their entire childhoods in exile without ever attending school, despite their right to obtain an education.

Findings in this report show that there is a gap between policy and practice in education for this refugee population. The authors argue that this gap exists because of 1) lack of capacity in government schools, which are already crowded; 2) lack of civil servants to interpret and enforce policy; 3) local and school administrators have autonomy, which sometimes make the education of refugee children impossible or difficult; and 4) there is discrimination and xenophobia by host communities.

For more information on the education of refugee populations around the world, see earlier IEN reports including “Educating a new population of refugees in Europe,” and “Scan of Ed News: U.S. Travel Ban and Higher Education.” We have also collected the following recent news reports focusing on the education of refugee populations:

EU, IOM Help 2,500 Refugee, Migrant Children to Attend Greek Schools http://buff.ly/2nfWIc6 (International Organization for Migration)

A haven for Europe’s newest refugees | NRC http://buff.ly/2m0piNs (Norwegian Refugee Council)

Living in the Shadows, a Family Tries to Secure Its Children’s Future – Women & Girls http://buff.ly/2n0lEZ0 (http://www.newsdeeply.com)

Government votes down plan to help more child refugees http://buff.ly/2m0uxNc (The Independent)

UNICEF Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe: Regional Humanitarian Situation Report #20, 15 February 2017 http://buff.ly/2n0AxKZ (Relief Web)

Education vital to keep Syrians from extremism, EU says http://buff.ly/2mn8nrK (Anadolu Agency)

Living in the Shadows, a Family Tries to Secure Its Children’s Future http://buff.ly/2mnhlFt (http://www.newsdeeply.com)

Syrian refugee kids find joy and success in these classrooms. They are a lucky few. http://buff.ly/2mn7lMt (PRI)

3rd Migration Forum stresses EU countries share migrant responsibility http://buff.ly/2mnjFwf (GEO)

Unaccompanied Gambian minors receive free education in Italy http://buff.ly/2ngiY5x (The Point)

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