The following is a joint blog by Kevin Watkins and Kate James, Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer, Pearson.
The world is witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record since World War II. Of the unprecedented 65.3 million people forced from their homes, almost one-third are refugees, seeking protection from violence or persecution.
The majority of refugee children have lost not only their home, but also their education – so often the first casualty of conflict and emergencies. And, in so many developing countries to which refugees flee, governments already struggle to keep up with the demand for education. To meet the needs of child refugees, they have to increase school places, train more teachers, and provide quality learning materials for countless newcomers, who may not speak the language of instruction and have frequently missed out on three to four years of schooling.
There’s a disconnect: Ask a South Sudanese refugee in Uganda or a Syrian refugee in Jordan to list their priorities, and quality education – and the impact it could make on their life – will always figure prominently. And yet, only 2% of humanitarian funding in the world goes toward education.
We must take urgent action on the failure to respond to education needs in conflict and emergencies. For refugee children who have lost everything, education is something no one can take away from them. It’s the key to employment – and ultimately, to a better life. They know their future is on the line. And their ambition, resilience, and sheer drive for education is both awe inspiring and humbling.
Depriving children their right to an education has far greater consequences on society. The countries they fled from will one day need their skills to rebuild. Refugee children are the farmers, doctors, teachers, and scientists of the future – jobs that hinge critically on gaining the skills that education can deliver.
Children demand an education – the world is starting to listen
The time has come for world leaders to listen to children – and this week, at the United Nations General Assembly, they have an opportunity. It is now two years since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and one year on from the 2016 Leaders’ Summit on Refugees where the international community promised to provide child refugees with an education within a few months of arrival. This recognition of the importance of refugee education brings real hope and possibility for change but we must hold world leaders to account – for fulfilling their promises to children who demand an education.
Shining a light on promising practices in refugee education
Delivering refugee education is one of the world’s most intractable education challenges and the need for innovative, scalable educational solutions has never been more urgent. We want to help tackle this challenge, but we know we can’t do it alone.
That’s why through Promising Practices in Refugee Education, a joint initiative of Save the Children, UNHCR and Pearson, we set out to identify, document and promote innovative ways to effectively reach refugee children and young people with quality education. Our report, launching on Friday, synthesises the key findings and lessons learned from the initiative, and sets out critical recommendations for improving refugee education policy and practice.
Getting Every Last Child Learning
We’ve also extended our Every Child Learning partnership and, last week, we launched our ambitious pilot education project in Jordan, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. Our project illustrates how the private sector can collaborate with the public sector to open up new opportunities and make the biggest impact for refugee children.
The crisis in Syria has had a devastating impact on children’s lives, depriving millions of an education; these children are in danger of becoming a lost generation, set back decades by a brutal war. Our new programme will help Jordanian and Syrian children to accelerate their learning and improve their wellbeing.
The project consists of a fun and engaging maths learning app, “Space Hero” (Batlalfada), developed by Pearson in close collaboration with refugee and Jordanian children using learner-centred design approaches. The app aims to help children to improve their maths skills as they follow the story of the main character, Shehab (Arabic for shooting star), and his journey back to earth. It’s available on Google Play to download for free, so that children can access learning anywhere at any time.
The app supports a broader Save the Children led in-school programme focusing on teacher professional development, school-community relations, after-school learning and psychosocial support.
This innovative partnership has the potential to transform hundreds of thousands of children’s lives in Jordan, as well as other emergency and conflict settings globally.
Achieving more together
Whilst the challenges of providing education to the world’s refugee children are multiple and varied, with sustained attention, a commitment to creativity, innovation and partnerships, together with sufficient political will, we believe they can, and must, be overcome, so that ultimately every refugee child has access to a quality education.