EAA and UNHCR High-Level Forum in Geneva Shines Light on Barriers in Delivering Quality Education
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of the Education Above All (EAA) Foundation and UN SDG Advocate, joined the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, at a high-level forum today to urge the international community to facilitate access to quality education for displaced children.
The forum, organized by EAA in cooperation with UNHCR, highlighted the worsening displacement crisis and the issues in delivering education to refugees and internally displaced children. Global leaders discussed the devastating effects of conflict on the educational opportunities of millions of children.
There are more than 65.6 million people forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution.1 Of the more than 22 million refugees, more than half are under the age of 18 with only 61 per cent of refugee children attending primary school, compared to a global average of 91 per cent.2
During the panel discussion, Sheikha Moza spoke about the barriers disrupting learning for refugees and internally displaced children, and preventing them from contributing to their communities, saying “We must prioritize education… Education is a tool that can equip children for their future and for the present as well… We need to mobilize for a global approach to remove all institutional barriers for validating and recognizing education of refugees.”
She continued: “Unfortunately, today armed conflicts are increasingly targeting what we are all doing and destroying what we are building… We should have one voice to stop any enablers of armed conflict,” especially through stricter enforcement of UN sanctions.
During his remarks, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, outlined the particular challenges that refugees and internally displaced children face in accessing quality primary education, saying: “Access to education is a fundamental human right, and one that no child should be denied,” Grandi noted.
“We all have a responsibility to ensure that displaced children can access quality education which allows them to develop skills and pursue opportunities. Barriers to primary education must be overcome, and comprehensive, practical and sustainable solutions found.” Grandi added.
The high-level panel included interventions by Her Highness Sheikha Moza; Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Honourable Nansubuga Rosemary Seninde, Minister of State for Primary Education, Uganda; Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, and George Srour, the Founder and Chief Dreamer of Building Tomorrow, Inc.
The EAA-UNHCR partnership has reached almost 770,000 vulnerable out of school children in countries across Asia and Africa. Quality education helps develop critical thinking, problem solving and analytical skills that are applicable in daily life. It can also foster social cohesion, provide life-saving knowledge and address psychosocial needs for displaced children.
To address barriers to education, the partnership has worked to improve access and retention of children in primary school through cash grants and vouchers, capacity building for teachers, expansion of safe learning spaces and strengthening partnerships with key education partners.
In the 12 countries where Educate A Child operates, UNHCR’s partnership delivered tangible, life-changing results in the form of:
- An initiative in Uganda called “Boda Boda Talk Talk,” motorbike which broadcast school information messages in several languages to raise awareness on education.
- Electronic tablets in data collection and management distributed across refugee sites and urban areas in Chad improving education information.
- A non-formal Home Based Girls’ Schools programme which is improving access of girls to education who would otherwise be excluded in Pakistan
- A wide network of 500 community outreach volunteers, hotlines and 30 community centers in Syria which informs displaced students where they can access education.
- Income generating projects in Sudan which are helping schools to meet recurrent administrative costs and improve the learning environment, through Parent Teacher Associations.
- EBooks provided both for teachers and students in Ethiopia to help provide better access to reading and resource materials in Ethiopia.