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UNHCR and EU’s support in education sector helps increase enrolment of Pakistani, refugee children

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The Education Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Shahram Khan Tarakai; Head of UNHCR’s Sub-Office in Peshawar, Mr. Bernard Inkoom; the Commissioner for Afghan Refugees, Mr. Abbas Khan; and other government officials participating in a ceremony held in Swabi district to mark joint efforts to improve access to education for Pakistani and refugee students. © UNHCR/Z. Saleah

PESHAWAR, 20 May 2021: UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency’s rehabilitation of five public schools in Swabi district will help increase the enrolment of students by 70 per cent, thanks to the support of the European Union. A number of schools are also being improved in other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Thanks to investments channeled towards the largest refugee-hosting districts, Pakistani and refugee children will benefit from safer learning environments and better facilities, including newly built classrooms, water and sanitation facilities, such as latrines, and furniture sets.

In Swabi district, the Government Higher Secondary School Ismaila, the Government Primary School Ismaila, the Government High Secondary School Yaar Hussain, the Government Primary School Yaar Hussain and the Government Primary School Hemlet were rehabilitated and improved.

A ceremony to mark these efforts was held at the Government Higher Secondary School Ismaila. The Education Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Shahram Khan Tarakai, the Head of UNHCR’s Sub-Office in Peshawar, Mr. Bernard Inkoom, the Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Abbas Khan, and other dignitaries from various government departments participated in the event.

The Education Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Tarakai, appreciated UNHCR and the European Union for strengthening Pakistan’s development initiatives, including in the education sector.

“Despite the difficult circumstances, our resolve remains strong; we’ll continue to host Afghan refugees. During these past 40 years, we’ve lived together peacefully with our Afghan brothers and sisters. As the impact of the pandemic is far-reaching, even eroding our hard-earned gains in the education sector, we call on the international community to continue support countries – like ours – which are committed to leaving no one behind,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Inkoom expressed his admiration of the hospitality of Pakistani people towards Afghan refugees. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, he emphasized how investments into the education sector were more crucial than ever, adding that the European Union’s generous support has been particularly valuable in this regard.

“With improved facilities in public schools, Pakistani and refugee students will have an opportunity to learn side-by-side in a safe environment,” he said. He added that it’s important to highlight internationally that Pakistan leads by example and through its good practices – sharing its vital services with Afghan refugees. “Providing such support is one way of showing solidarity with these communities that have hosted refugees for over four decades,” he emphasized.

Speaking on the occasion, the Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Khan, thanked the international community, including UNHCR, for continuing to meet challenges and for helping ensure that all children living in Pakistan are able to grow and learn in a safe environment.

Since 2009, through the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas programme, UNHCR supported the implementation of 4,300 projects in the areas of education, health, infrastructure, livelihoods as well as water and sanitation across the country. A total of 12.4 million people – 85 per cent Pakistanis and 15 per cent Afghan refugees – have benefitted.