[New Report] Refugee education during COVID-19: Crisis and opportunity
You know very well how the COVID-19 pandemic has become a global education crisis. In early 2020, it led to school closures impacting 90 percent of the world’s students. As children and young people around the world continue to face disruption to their education because of COVID-19, it is essential to ensure that refugee children and youth are not left behind.
“COVID-19 has taken away any certainty or ability to plan for the future.”
“This crisis is a brake on dreaming.”
--Refugee students, July 2020
In December 2019, UNHCR organised the first ever Global Refugee Forum (GRF) with the aim of strengthening action to deliver on the Global Compact for Refugees. INEE joined the GRF Education Co-Sponsors group and also co-led the GRF task team on education emergencies, contributing to the Global Framework for Refugee Education. Among the four pledges INEE made at the GRF was a commitment to “[s]trengthen inter-agency support for inclusive and equitable quality education during displacement through global advocacy, capacity building, knowledge management, and evidence generation.”
As part of this pledge, in July 2020, INEE hosted, with the support of UNHCR, a series of virtual round tables in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. These events aimed to provide opportunities to hear from refugee students and their teachers about the impact of COVID-19 on their education.
The round tables shone a light on shared experiences of young refugees, including increased barriers to education during the pandemic and a common desire for continued education in the midst of this education emergency. The discussions, which brought together refugee youth and teachers, together with ministry of education officials, civil society actors, and UN agency representatives, called for practical solutions to address the additional complexity facing refugee education during COVID-19.
The key messages coming from the round tables and from the refugees themselves include:
- Listen to refugee children and youth and enable them to participate in decisions affecting their education, which is in line with principles of community engagement set out in INEE’s Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response and Recovery.
- Ensure equal access to quality education for all refugee children and youth, including access to quality distance education during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The right to education is not suspended in emergencies or as a result of forced displacement. Refugee and IDP children and youth have the right to education and hope for a better future.
- Hosting governments should ensure that documentation and certification for refugees and migrants are not a barrier to access education. This could for example include adopting the UNESCO Qualifications Passports for Refugees and Vulnerable Migrants (UQP).
- Refugee and migrant supporting agencies should ensure greater universal access to digital technologies for refugees and migrants and ensure equitable access to technology for girls and women.
We invite you to read the full report (available in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish) from the round tables and to join us in our continued and collective efforts to accomplish our mission of ensuring quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by emergencies including refugees.