Providing Education Opportunities for Displaced Children
The UN Refugee Agency reports that out of the six million primary and secondary school-aged refugee children, around 3.7 million have no school to attend. School enrollment rates are significantly lower among refugee children. The challenges to providing education opportunities for displaced children are numerous. Developing countries, whose governments are already struggling to meet the educational needs of their own citizens, struggle to find schools, teachers, and school supplies for refugee children. Internally displaced children are also not well-accounted for by the national education sector. Further, obtaining reliable data on the educational needs of displaced children is very difficult; thus, making long-term planning extremely challenging.
Nearly 60% of the displaced Rohingya population are children. In addition to meeting children’s nutritional and health needs, another immense challenge is providing children in this situation, who have already suffered tremendously, with access to education in a safe and nurturing environment. This can come in the form of schools established within camps or child-friendly spaces which would serve many purposes on top of education, such as providing children with the space and opportunity to play, learn and receive psychosocial services. An alternative solution to the challenge of education in the context of a large displaced population can also be allowing children from displaced backgrounds the right to access education facilities within the country hosting them. This could mean enabling and supporting the host country in increasing enrollment for refugee children and offering public education at no cost, or opening “second shifts” at schools to accommodate more children.
Regardless of the approach, to come up with an effective response plan, the education sector needs to conduct a rapid needs assessment to identify education, as well as protection needs, priorities, and capacities of Rohingya children in the displaced areas and camps. It is essential that the education sector work closely with the government and line ministries to address the gaps in the schools’ capacities. In addition, there is a need to engage the community and raise awareness on the importance of education to combat an increasing prevalence of child labor and early marriage. This will help mitigate the impact of conflict and disasters by giving children and families a sense of stability, structure, and hope. In addition, access to formal, informal, and non-formal education will create better opportunities and ensure that a generation is not lost.
Some examples of existing challenges include: lack of school capacities in terms of trained teachers and learning materials, recurrent outbreaks of communicable diseases, long distance between camps and schools, lack of parents’ interest to send their children to school, and lack of coordination between the host government and the international community.