UNICEF and UNHCR join hands to enhance education opportunities for Afghan refugee children
Islamabad, 24 April 2013 - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have joined hands to explore opportunities to improve education services for Afghan refugee children in Pakistan.
A landmark study on enhanced access to education for Afghan refugee children was inaugurated at a ceremony here today. The initiative explored the present situation regarding the education for Afghan children in Pakistan. It also designed a strategy to enhance the education services available to them.
“UNICEF is proud to partner with UNHCR in this landmark study,” said Simone Klawitter, acting Country Representative for UNICEF Pakistan. “UNICEF believes that schools are safe spaces for children. After the passage of Article 25-A, it is imperative that Afghan refugee children be given an equal opportunity to flourish alongside their Pakistani peers.”
According to UNHCR statistics, literacy amongst Afghan refugees is as low as 33 percent. Female literacy amongst this population is even lower, at just 8 percent.
The study reflected a growing awareness within the community of the different types of educational, vocational and career opportunities on offer. This understanding, however, has not yet contributed towards increasing school enrolment rates.
The study cited a lack of girls’ schools, lack of female teachers and socio-cultural barriers as reasons for limited female literacy. With more than 50 percent of the entire Afghan refugee population under the age of 14, the provision of education remains a high priority for families and for the communities, the UN agencies and the government.
“A concerted effort is required from UNHCR, UNICEF, the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and from NGOs to ensure the durable provision of quality education to Afghan refugee children,” said Neill Wright, UNHCR Representative in Pakistan.
He also stated that “there is a dire need to provide education to all” and further added that “education prepares refugees for durable solutions, including sustainable voluntary repatriation, integration and resettlement to third countries.”
The findings of the study and the proposed strategy conducted by Nielsen for out-of-school Afghan children were presented in regional meetings in Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore to ensure the necessary stakeholder inputs and participation. Their perspectives have been incorporated in the proposed strategy, which is expected to guide UNHCR and UNICEF in the development of a new comprehensive strategy for the education of Afghan refugee children in Pakistan.