Welcome to the last post in our “Refugee Education: Students Without Borders” blog series. If you missed the first two, or want a refresher, click War Refugees and Education and Barriers to Refugee Education. To complete your education on refugee education (!), we’re going to zero in on three countries: Lebanon, Jordan, and Uganda. Here we will get into the nitty-gritty of what’s working and what’s not working, and glean some important takeaways for next steps in the battle for providing universal refugee education.
In, Lebanon, the country with the highest per capita refugee population in the world, nine siblings—the al-Abdullah’s—speak of chaotic schools, a new language, and the weighty pressure to secure jobs. Already, four of the young brothers have entered the workforce and ceased to pass through the school doors again. The other five siblings that are currently in school predict that they, too, will soon have to leave to earn an income due to restrictive employment and residency rules for refugees that prevent their parents from working.
The sixth highest refugee hosting country in the world, Jordan (with 87 refugees per 1000 inhabitants), too, has a slew of policies that prevent refugees from attending school. For example, school-aged children must obtain identification documents to enroll in public schools, and they are required to present official school certificates proving the grades that they have previously completed; an impossibility for families who fled their homes taking only the belongings they could carry with them on their journey. Additionally, the Jordanian Education Ministry bars school enrollment to children, including their own citizens, who are three or more years older than their grade level, putting many beyond the reach of an education.
For all the problems that exist, however, some success has been seen. For example, although Jordan has its failures, massive improvements have been made. Donor aid, although falling short of what Jordan requested, has increased and is set to increase still. This has had a positive impact on school enrollment and access to education. Indeed, between 2012 and 2016, the number of Syrian refugees in Jordan enrolled in formal education rose from 12% to 64%, improving access to education without lowering the quality of education.
Fortunately for refugees, well-established structures and organizations are not always required to receive solid learning opportunities. In fact, informal schools are often an important site of access, especially where refugee rights are limited. “In Uganda, for example, refugees did not have the legal right to reside in urban areas until 2006. Ethnographic fieldwork in Kampala documents that, prior to that time, the only education available to refugee children in urban areas was in refugee-initiated and supported schools that operated outside of any formal assistance from UNHCR or NGOs.”
In the late 1990s, during the Kosovo crisis, some success was seen in refugee education through the method of ‘kitting’—assembling kits for students and teachers containing backpacks, notebooks, textbooks—school in a bag, essentially. The class was held in a tent if a building couldn’t be found. While dependent upon teachers being available, this is a simple and effective program and one that could easily and sustainably be replicated.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to tell where to go with this issue. Donors and humanitarian organizations should work together—as should host governments. A cohesive strategy could be employed by examining the success of certain countries and guaranteeing resources. Until then, we can all find ways to contribute. Donate to an organization that supports refugee education, volunteer to help at a local refugee organization, or get involved by donating to Humanity Helping Sudan Project’s very own scholarship fund, which will help a Sudanese refugee gain an education. Nothing is too small, nothing is too large—and we can all agree that everyone deserves an education.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Humanity Helping Sudan Project.