In the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, education was recognized as a crucial element of the international refugee response. Currently, 7.4 million refugees are of school age and only 4% are attending school. Access to education is extremely limited in refugee communities and eTwinning initiatives are helping to fill this gap. In fact, only 15 percent of refugees have a tertiary degree. Another 35% have lower secondary education and only 24% have attended primary school.
Access to education as a critical element of the international refugee system
Newcomer families to the Netherlands often face an uphill battle navigating a complicated education system. Whether they are older or younger, they may have missed years of education due to language barriers or lack of certification. While there are many reasons why education should be prioritized in the refugee system, it often fails to account for age and cultural differences. The lack of access to education in refugee communities also limits opportunities for second and third chances.
As a result, the education policies of many major resettlement countries are not consistent with UNHCR’s Global Compact on Refugees. Although these policies have specific objectives and instruments, they suffer from incoherence due to gaps in the targeted population. One such example is the omission of certain SsRP or SwRP cohorts. Without explicit specification of these groups, education policies often overlook their needs.
UNHCR’s mandate as a non-political organization
UNHCR is a humanitarian organization that coordinates material assistance for refugees and migrants. This was not its original mandate, but it has since become a primary function. UNHCR also helps the International Organization of Migration return rejected refugees and asylum seekers to their countries. The organization has been in the business of helping refugees and migrants resettle in their new countries for over 65 years.
The UNHCR’s work is complex and requires an interdisciplinary approach. In the Middle East, it partnered with governments to limit the number of Iraqi refugees. After one year, their status as refugees ends. They are left vulnerable to poverty upon resettlement in their new home countries. Furthermore, UNHCR partners with governments to advance expulsion tactics.
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The eTwinning platform is a web-based educational collaboration tool that has helped connect teachers from different countries with schools in refugee and migrant communities around the world. The platform is available on various platforms, including the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. It is available on tablet devices as well. Its focus is on the TwinSpace, a safe space for students and teachers. It has been praised for its efficiency, making it an effective tool for education exchange.
Teachers and educational professionals from various European countries are part of the eTwinning community, which enables educators to share and collaborate on educational projects. Teachers are also able to share their experiences and ideas with fellow eTwinners. Teachers can also take advantage of eTwinning Live, a mobile application that allows them to connect and collaborate on projects with colleagues in other countries. These resources are invaluable in creating a positive impact for both students and teachers.
UNHCR’s role in promoting refugee education
The UNHCR’s report on refugee education, “Missing Out” (Missing Out in English), compares UNHCR’s data to UNESCO data. UNESCO data show that 91 percent of children worldwide are in primary school. But among refugees, that rate is only 61 percent. And while refugee children are now more likely to complete primary school than they were a year ago, they are still significantly under-enrolled in secondary education. In low-income countries, only 5 percent of refugee children complete secondary school.
To achieve this goal, UNHCR developed the UNHCR Education Strategy, which guides the implementation of agreed-upon targets. The strategy seeks to increase the participation of refugees in education planning, foster self-reliance and resilience, and contribute to civil society. The strategy also highlights the need for broader partnerships with countries and other organisations in the education sector. In addition to the UNHCR education strategy, UNHCR also offers documentation on good practices and case studies.