22 million refugee and displaced children have not yet a guaranteed access to education
|• In South Sudan, in the villages where the JRS works, girls stay longer in school|
|• One of the main reasons of displacement in Colombia is the link and recruitment by armed groups|
The number of refugees and displaced people due to conflicts and persecutions adds up to 43,3 million, according to 2009 data. Out of these, approximately 22 million are children and youth under 22 years old, which represent 51% of the total. Out of the 43 million, 15,2 are refugees, 27,1 are displaced in their own country and almost 1 million are asylum applicants, according to the Unite Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR.
Valeria Méndez de Vigo, head of Entreculturas Department of Studies and Impact, has pointed out that "although the right to education is recognized by the international community, it is being systematically violated, with an existing breach between theory and practice". The truth is that a great number of displaced children and adults do not have education. This hinders the compliance of other rights.
The report´s coordinator, Valeria Méndez de Vigo, also states that " although there is a strong will to return to their countries of origin, the majority of refugees will continue to be so, during a long period, for an average of seventeen years". This has important implications for children and youth who will spend their childhood and youth in refugee camps. These massive displacements of populations mean an extreme disadvantage in education facing the future.
The report focuses specially on gender. In the refugee camps, the number of girls attending school is lower than the boys. This difference is greater as the education level increases, so that in general, there is an important decrease in the percentage of girls in higher levels of primary and secondary schools.
In secondary education, gender inequality numbers are even greater. In this context, Leone Lam Ferem, from Sudan, a refugee together with all his family for the past 14 years in Uganda and currentlyJRS project director in Lebone, South Sudan, explains the importance of education for girls since " today´s girls are the future's women. To educate a girl is to educate the world and this is our wish for a strong country", he says. In addition, he has explained the benefits of the programme " Affirmative Action", carried out in Lebone and NImule, in which " the number of girls who finish secondary school has increased considerably over the last years, thanks to all the school promotion activities for girls". “ When after 21 years of war, we were able to return to our homes, people asked themselves why we had come back, since there was nothing, no schools, no infrastructures. We gave lessons under a tree but slowly, schools were set up ad now children play in the streets again" he explains.
Carol Fernanda, member of the Colombia JRS humanitarian action and prevention team, has put forward the experience of thousands of women and children who are forced to displacement from their homes due to the socio political conflict. “One of the main causes of displacement lies in the link and recruitment of children and youth" she explains. Furthermore, in Colombia one of the greatest dangers is the invisibility of the displaced population, since it does not take place massively but " drop by drop, towards the outskirts of the main cities, establishing themselves in areas already vulnerable: "people arrive silently, and this reality becomes invisible".
The report´s main conclusions stress the fact that education is a right for all people, recognized by the international community, which is violated; in cases where there is access to education, this is mostly for the first education period and the quality is sometimes deficient; education is considered essential for the refugees and displaced persons; there is a marked discrimination in access to education for girl refugees and above all a greater school dropout; education is a protection tool for the refugee and displaced population; education is a condition for development; and education should be a priority in the work with refugees and displaced people and is an essential activity in emergency situations.
To increase the definition and thus the legal protection of the refugees and displaced, to improve the repatriation and asylum conditions and to promote from the International Community, fair policies to protect all these victims, are some of the report´s challenges. For this purpose, education is one of the essential keys.