By the beginning of 2018, there were more than 25.4 million refugees around the world, 19.9 million of them under UNHCR’s mandate. The statistics presented in UNHCR’s latest education report, Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis, in 2018, are staggering: four million refugee children – more than half of the 7.4 million refugee children of school age under UNHCR’s mandate – do not attend school, an increase of half a million out of school refugee children within one year.
Even though more than 500,000 refugee children were newly enrolled in school in 2017, thanks to the far-reaching efforts of governments, UNHCR and partners, the global picture still needs to improve, as the world’s displacement crises multiply, and in many cases, worsen. In 2018, only 61 per cent of refugee children were enrolled in primary school, compared to a global average of 92 per cent. The situation is far worse in low-income countries, which host the vast majority of the world’s school-age refugees, and where less than half of primary-age refugee children get to go to school.
The Educate A Child (EAC) multi-year programme continues to make a real difference in the lives of displaced out of school children (OOSC) around the globe. In 2018, 255,409 formerly OOSC were newly enrolled in primary education in 14 locations in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Since its launch in 2015, the current multi-year programme has helped 937,654 refugee and internally displaced children access primary education, thus significantly over-achieving its project target of 807,6701 new enrolments. Since the beginning of the UNHCR-EAC partnership in 2012, the total number of OOSC enrolled has surpassed 1 million, with a total of 1,208,106.
With the current multiyear programme coming to an end in almost all programme locations (except Kenya-Kakuma), 2018 has not only been a year of consolidation and optimisation of the EAC programme, but has also offered an opportunity to look back on the main achievements, identify good practices, and reflect on the impact the programme has had on refugee education globally.
In November 2018, 35 participants from Ministries of Education, partner organisations and UNHCR colleagues from EAC programme countries, as well as a technical expert from EAC, came to Copenhagen to participate in a workshop on The Global Compact on Refugees – accessing quality inclusive education. The workshop was designed to analyse good practices that have emerged from the programme and to see how UNHCR can use these to further enhance access to quality inclusive education and systems strengthening. Content areas covered during the workshop included: ‘The Global Compact for Refugees – the new normal’, ‘Education in Emergencies – planning beyond the here and now’, ‘Co-design Principles and Practice’, ‘Accelerated Education and National System Inclusion’, and ‘Inclusive Education – overcoming the barriers’. One of the main outcomes of the Workshop was an agreement to develop an EAC Community of Good Practices, and as a first activity of the community, two webinars were held after the workshop; one on ‘Dealing with Data’ and a second on ‘Messaging – how do we develop a compelling narrative.’
In late 2018/early 2019, the UNHCR Headquarters EAC team hired a consultant to liaise with EAC programme locations on collecting and synthesising information on good practices.
The information is in the process of being compiled into a variety of accessible formats, including a report and a set of online resources. These will be shared widely, in order to offer very clear and practical directions for improving programming on primary school enrolment and completion. The main idea is to ‘celebrate from our successes’ and share the hard-won knowledge that country teams built up during the implementation of the EAC programme.