Refugee camp schooling - should we be doing more?

Some highlights from UNHCR's (2011) Refugee Education Review: 
  • Educating urban refugees requires different strategies to encamped refugees; 
  • Access to post-primary schooling remains limited in camps; 
  • Quality teachers are in short supply in camps; 
  • Specialised educational knowledge amongst UNHCR staff and its partners is lacking;
  • The quality of education - when it is received - leaves a lot to be desired, and is not an adequate precursor to the world of work.
In some cases, refugees are better off than their hosting nationals - see page 25 of the report for country examples. In many cases however, camp secondary school fees are a huge barrier to access (UNHCR's Review suggests Gross Enrolment Rate in camps is 37%).

Whilst limited scholarships are available to post-primary education in camps, this does not appear to be a sustainable option, or in fact one that builds local capacity. It is also important to note that UNHCR does not have its own education specialists and therefore relies on partnerships to fulfil this role.

17 years is the average length of a protracted refugee situation according to UNHCR, yet refugee circumstances are still categorised as 'temporary'. I'm left wondering how reconstruction of the home country is expected to take place upon repatriation (as the rhetoric goes), if education is the first provision to be cut when funds are low.

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  1. The bottom line is that sometimes refugees don't even have the basics e.g. enough food, safety, or medicine. So, how can we focus on education when these things are not being provided? The basic needs are the priority.

    1. Yes, I do agree with your comment. However, I think rather than being a reflection of education not being important in such settings, your comment highlights the fact that the minimum standards in place in writing are not met in practice in certain contexts. In terms of what this means for the provision of education, I think informal education should continue whilst other needs remain unmet in order to provide children and youth with positive spaces to develop.

    2. How can children concentrate if they are hungry or sick?

    3. Very true Anonymous. Of course I'm not suggesting that whilst children remain hungry or unhealthy education should be prioritised over these issues. Rather, there can be links between them e.g. feeding programmes as incentives for children to attend schools. Another example is that schooling can also raise awareness of health issues. Overall, therefore, it seems rather than viewing each area e.g. education, health, in isolation, collaboration is likely to be more successful.

    4. Yes, you make a good point. But, funding can be an issue. In fact, funding and the related politics is perhaps the biggest issue/barrier to fulfilling all the rights/needs in such situations/contexts.