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Four million refugee children out of school worldwide, over 70,000 in Jordan

UNHCR report records additional half-a-million out-of-school refugee children over the past year

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - Aug 30,2018 - Last updated at Aug 30,2018

Over 70,000 officially registered Syrian refugee children were out of school as of last year in Jordan, according to data published on UNHCR's website (Photo courtesy of UNHCR website)

AMMAN — Four million refugee children  across the world remain out of school today, according to a new report issued by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday. 

The study, titled "Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis", identified an increase by half a million in the number of out-of-school refugee children over the past year, warning that "despite the efforts of the governments of host countries, UNHCR and its partners, enrolment of refugee children in school is failing to keep pace with the growing refugee population".

In Jordan, over 70,000 officially registered Syrian refugee children are still out of school, UNHCR sources told The Jordan Times on Thursday. 

 “With 700,000 Syrian Refugees in the region still out of school, we are grateful for the Jordanian Ministry of Education and its inclusive policy, which is helping more refugees access education every year,” UNHCR Representative in Jordan Stefano Severe commented on his social media channels.  

“Fourty per cent of Syrian school-aged children remain out of school in Jordan despite the government's efforts to facilitate the registration of all children living in Jordan. Meanwhile, both the international community and the Jordanian stakeholders have yet to tackle the underlying barriers to school enrolment and retention," Jordan INGO Forum Representative Hanalia Ferhan told The Jordan Times in April, citing the poor quality of education and the increasing poverty of Syrian families as factors that drive children away from school. 

Barriers to schooling in Jordan vary according to the latest quarterly report of the Education Sector Working Group — an umbrella comprising several UN agencies and NGOs working within the Kingdom, which pointed out that "poverty drives children and youth into child labour and early child marriage, financial constraints hinder access to post-basic education and technical and vocational training or higher education, and the number of available scholarships does not meet the demand".

"The majority of children with disabilities face multiple barriers to access education and protection services," the report continued, adding that "insufficient quality of education, inadequate learning environments and violence in schools contribute to early dropout, while school maintenance has become a critical issue due to the intense use of infrastructure". 

However, the enrolment of Syrian refugee children in formal education rose over the past year, according to the same report, which pointed out an increase from 126,127 children enrolled in the 2016-2017 academic year to a total of 130,668 in 2017-2018.

In addition, a total of 18 agencies in the education sector reported having provided 41,733 children with non-certified education (Learning Support Services) for children, according to the report. 

“Several alternative opportunities exist under the umbrella of what we call non-formal education,” UNICEF Chief of Education Iris Uyttersprot told The Jordan Times earlier this year, explaining that “through the Ministry of Education, we reach out to vulnerable children in order to offer them the opportunities that are most suitable to their situation”.

A catch-up programme is available for children aged nine to 12 to introduce them in an advanced learning path and integrate them back into the formal education system, while children over 12 can get involved in dropout programmes aimed at providing them with learning opportunities towards further education and employment choices in their adult phase.

Globally, only 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, compared to 92 per cent of the rest of the children worldwide, the new UNHCR study said. 

"As refugee children get older, this gap grows,” the UN agency noted on the report, warning that nearly two-thirds of refugee children who go to primary school do not make it to secondary school. 

In total, 23 per cent of refugee children attend secondary school, compared to 84 per cent of children globally.

“Education is a way to help children heal, but it is also key to rebuilding their countries,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, expressing that “without education, the future of these children and their communities will be irrevocably damaged”.

“School is the first place in months or even years where refugee children find any normality,” the official added, noting that “based on current patterns, unless urgent investment is undertaken, hundreds of thousands more children will join these disturbing statistics”.

"Way more needs to be done to ensure all refugees get the quality education they deserve," the report said in this regard, urging  host countries to "enrol refugee children in national systems, with a proper curriculum, all the way through primary and secondary school, to allow for recognised qualifications that can be their springboard to university or higher vocational training".

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