Internally displaced children’s access to quality education remains unrealised
As of 2019, at least 12.6 million school-age children (3–18 years old) were internally displaced due to conflict or violence. These numbers are likely an underestimate with many internally displaced children unaccounted for due to lack of data. This report only considers IDPs affected by conflict or violence, but there are millions more displaced due to other crises, such as climate change and environmental disasters.3 The periods of internal displacement are becoming longer, with years becoming decades and internally displaced children spending the majority of their school-years displaced. The majority of these children do not have access to quality, safe and inclusive education due to discrimination, financial, legal and insecurity barriers.
Displacement affects the education of those who move, those who stay and that of host communities. It compromises the future of a whole generation and limits progress toward achieving SDG 4: ensuring inclusive and quality education for all as well as interdependent human rights and SDG targets. Studies show that IDPs want to regain self-sufficiency and the independence needed to plan their futures. Education emerged as a key priority for internally displaced children and youth consulted so far by the UN High-level Panel on Internal Displacement and for many internally displaced parents the success of their integration or settlement is dependent on their children’s ability to access education. Along with safety, livelihoods, and a stable home environment, education is a critical part of durable solutions to internal displacement, that are sensitive to children’s needs. It is also vital for their prosperity into adulthood as internal displacement situations tend to be protracted and having a good education means you are more likely to earn a higher income and lead a healthier life. Achieving such a durable solution means providing multiple flexible and recognised pathways to include internally displaced children in national education systems where they can receive a quality education with which they can re-establish their lives and regain a sense of stability.
Displacement exacerbates the education challenges facing girls. Increased insecurity and poverty can reduce the educational opportunities available to girls and lead to increases of child marriage and early pregnancy. A gender lens is critical to addressing specific experiences of displacement and education.
Displacement increases stress within the family and could lead to negative mental health consequences such as anxiety and depression, including among children and young people. Children respond to stress in different ways. Common responses include difficulties sleeping, bed-wetting, stomach pain or headaches, fear of being left alone, becoming angry or withdrawn, and feelings of uncertainty, fear, loss and sadness. Children need to feel safe and protected to be able to learn, so quality education provision must include support for their wellbeing.
The right to education constitutes a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,9 the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and many other international human rights instruments 10 and is one of the key principles underpinning the Education 2030 Agenda and SDG4.11 The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement 12 in its article 29 establishes the importance for competent national authorities to provide educational services as they have the obligation to prevent any discrimination against IDPs who have returned or resettled in another part of the country and that they shall have equal access to public services.