Why is Education the Best Protection Tool in Forced Displacement Contexts?
The West and Central Africa region hosts 11.4 million people of concern to UNHCR, including 1.4 million refugees and 7 million IDPs, over 55% of whom are children. Forced displacement is on the rise in a region severely affected by armed conflicts, human right violations, political instability, weak governance and corruption, climate change, natural disasters, extreme poverty, and the disastrous impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on livelihoods.
Despite access to quality education being a defined human right for all and an essential protection tool as articulated in the aim of SDG 4, forcibly displaced communities face significant challenges in accessing quality early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary education, and overall, lifelong learning opportunities.
In 2020, more than half of the refugee children in the West and Central Africa region were not in school!
Barriers to accessing education make the situation of refugees and internally displaced children even more precarious exposing them to very serious protection risks: forced recruitment, trafficking and smuggling, labour and sexual exploitations, etc. The impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic has only amplified these chronic challenges, jeopardising the continuity of education for millions of forcibly displaced children in the region and potentially leaving a number of them permanently out of school.
Convinced that education is the best protection tool for children in contexts of forced displacement or emergency, UNHCR works tirelessly to ensure access to safe, quality education for all displaced children and youth by strengthening the protective capacities of teachers and school facilities, while promoting access to alternative and flexible learning opportunities for those out of school.