27 million children out of school in conflict zones – UNICEF

18 September 2017

NEW YORK, 18 September 2017 – Some 27 million children are out of school in conflict zones, UNICEF said in a report released today. Focusing on the importance of education for children who have been forced from their homes by conflict and disasters, the report notes that failure to provide learning opportunities for uprooted children has profound consequences for individuals and nations.

Here are some salient facts from the report:

A child uprooted from home – whether a refugee, a migrant or internally displaced – is a child first and foremost. And every child has the right to an education.

  • In 2015, nearly 50 million children were uprooted. More than 28 million of them were forced from their homes because of violence and insecurity.
  • 27 million children of primary and lower secondary school age are out of school in 24 conflict-affected countries.

Children and youth on the move with low levels of education are at increased risk of exploitation. 

  • In a recent survey of children moving across the Central Mediterranean route to Europe, 90 per cent of adolescents without education reported exploitation compared with 77 per cent of children with primary education and 75 per cent with secondary education.
  • On the Eastern Mediterranean route, 23 per cent of adolescents without education reported exploitation compared with 20 per cent with primary education and 14 per cent secondary education.

Refugees are five times more likely to be out of school than other children.

  • Only 50 per cent of refugee children are enrolled in primary school.
  • Less than 25 per cent of refugee youth are enrolled in secondary school.

Adolescent girls on the move face unique risks.

  • Girls are more likely to become victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
  • In countries affected by conflict, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.

Children who have arrived in countries where their families plan to stay can face barriers to entering public school systems.

  • For some, information is unavailable or language and cultural barriers make it difficult to gain access.
  • The upheaval of the journey and the instability of living arrangements and routines in a new environment can make it difficult for a child to learn. 
  • Xenophobia, exclusion and stigmatization can create inhospitable – or even dangerous – environments for children seeking to join a new school system.
  • School qualification certificates do not always transfer well across borders and school systems. In Turkey, for example, temporary education centres that are not registered or do not meet the Ministry of National Education’s regulatory standards are not accredited. So students there do not receive certificates when they complete their studies, making it difficult to provide proof of their learning achievements.
  • In some countries, legal barriers exist. For example, only 10 European Union Member States recognize the right of undocumented migrant children to enter the school system and five explicitly exclude them.

Organizations from around the world are engaged in providing children with safe spaces to learn.

  • In 2016, UNICEF reached 11.7 million children in emergencies. Efforts included providing formal and non-formal learning opportunities and materials, teacher training and offering life skills classes.
  • UNICEF alone reaches 45% of children in need of education services in emergencies.
  • UNICEF is currently hosting the secretariat of Education Cannot Wait, which has mobilized over US$113 million from government donors and a pledge of US$100 million in both financial and in-kind support from the private sector.

UNICEF calls on partners to:

  • Integrate all uprooted children – migrants, refugees, internally displaced, asylum seekers or unaccompanied – into the education system where they live.
  • Invest in high-quality learning opportunities suited to the different needs of children who have been uprooted from their homes:
    o Including dedicating a greater percentage of funding earmarked for humanitarian crises worldwide to adequately and predictably finance the provision of education in emergencies.
    o Including providing services such as psychosocial counselling, language instruction and integration support.
  • Strengthen education systems so they can provide high-quality learning opportunities for children in host communities; and so they are strong enough to offer uprooted children the services they need to go to school and learn.
  • Engage with partners including the private sector to provide technical assistance, expertise and talent that can be tailored to needs of uprooted children.
  • Co-create – with partners and children – solutions to the specific challenges children face as they continue their education.
  • Seek ways to achieve internationally portable systems of certification and record keeping that protect students’ identities.

Notes to the editor

Photos available for download https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIFIOMPCQ
A convoy of 27 empty school buses, together with education activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Muzoon Almellehan travelled through the streets of Manhattan yesterday, 17 September 2017 to shine a spotlight on the 27 million out-of-school children living in conflict zones. 

Also, while on a visit to Jordan in September 2017, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra met with Syrian children, young people and their families whose lives have been greatly affected by conflict. Chopra visited the Za’atari refugee camp where she met girls at a UNICEF-supported school and two Makani centres that provide psychosocial support services to both young boys and girls.

For more information please contact Kurtis Cooper, UNICEF New York, Mobile:+19174761435 Email: kacooper@unicef.org 

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