Migrants don’t leave their right to education behind

COMMENT

The number of migrant and refugee children in the world today could fill more than half a million classrooms. Their parents are perhaps seeking new opportunities in the city, or even in another country. Others are forced to flee conflict or natural disaster. In all, there has been a 26% increase in children on the move since 2000.

These children have the right to education, no matter where they are from and what they have been through. This is the focus of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco’s) Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report.

Migrants, refugees and internally displaced people are some of the most vulnerable in the world. Sometimes simply being in school means being safe. Eight-year-old Jana, a Syrian refugee at the Unesco-run school in the Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan, says she felt happy just to escape the sound of gunfire. School has also given her hope; she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

When possible, these children should be placed in the same schools as host populations to help them to thrive. Teachers are on the front line supporting children who face discrimination or who suffer from trauma. They also need support to manage multilingual, multicultural classes and the psychological consequences of what they have endured.

A well-designed curriculum that challenges prejudices is also vital and can have a positive ripple effect beyond the classroom walls, enhancing social cohesion. Unfortunately, some textbooks include outdated depictions of migration and undermine efforts towards inclusion.


READ MORE: SA’s contradictory laws discriminate against children of migrants

Adults also need educational support. Many have qualifications, but in Europe and North America only about one in 10 of those who have gained a higher education degree work in a job that matches their skills. The Unesco Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications, due to be adopted next year, aims to resolve this problem.

The cost of educating immigrants is often exaggerated. Financing for refugee education, however, is woefully inadequate — only a third of the funding gap for refugee education has been filled. It is a collective responsibility to ensure that development aid plugs the holes, providing predictable and long-term funding so the burden does not fall on those countries least able to cope.

The world is poised to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees, both of which highlight the crucial role of education and reaffirm the importance of “leaving no one behind”. This year’s GEM Report offers a blueprint for countries to deliver on their promises. We hope all governments will use it to turn despair into hope for a brighter future for all.

Audrey Azoulay is the director general of Unesco

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

‘Captured’ water utility exec holes up

Thami Hlongwa seems to be in hiding after a blacklisted technology company scored millions from Umgeni Water and the owner was murdered

Step-aside guidelines are not about Ace, says Mathews Phosa

The guidelines must be ‘timeless, uniting and not capable of being abused,’ says ANC veteran

More top stories

Exposing a Congolese bank’s dirty secrets

Meet Gardi Koko and Navy Malela, the two whistleblowers who risked everything to raise the alarm

Pregnant women should be vaccinated, doctors say

New research shows that there has been an increase in maternal deaths during the Covid-19 restriction

Zuma tells ANC top six not to hold their breath

Former president Jacob Zuma will only meet ANC leaders if deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo recuses himself from the state capture commission

Simeone is Atlético’s secret weapon

El Cholo remains true to himself — consistent, totally committed and prepared to graft — and these values are retained by the team
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…