Experts and policy makers join forces to remove obstacles to education for refugees and migrants

published 29 November 2018 updated 4 December 2018

Education International has teamed up with UNESCO to discuss how to make the right to education a reality for millions of migrant and refugee children.

Education International (EI) and UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report organised an event to present the Insights from the 2019 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report and BRICE project: A dialogue forum on the education response to displacement earlier this week at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris, France.

BRICE - Building Resilience in Crises through Education – is a joint initiative of Education International and Oxfam Ibis (Denmark). It seeks to support refugee and displaced  children, youth and teachers in Uganda and South Sudan meet their  educational and professional needs.

The event consisted of a high-level panel with Ministers of Education from participating BRICE countries, donor governments and civil society representatives, who explored promising practices in ensuring safe, quality education for all learners. It brought together representatives of country missions to UNESCO, UNESCO staff, BRICE project partners, teachers/teacher union representatives, non-governmental organizations and civil society partners, among others.

Wide scope of projects

Participants discussed the findings   of the 2019 GEM Report Migration, displacement and education: Building bridges, not walls, following a presentation by Senior Policy Analyst Mrs Anna Cristina D'Addio. Her presentation was followed by a peer learning forum for core partners from the BRICE project in Uganda and EI’s refugee project in Europe. The event discussed the obstacles to quality education for refugee and migrant children and youth and the learnings the 2019 GEM Report and BRICE project offer for finding solutions to these challenges.

In his introductory remarks UNESCO’s Director of the Division for Cooperation, Intersectoral follow-up and Partnerships for Africa, Mr Du Yue reminded the audience of the “importance of qualified, well supported teachers” and of the staggering effects that the shortage such teachers and tools available to them had on the access of refugees to education. “We are here to show commitment to the people on the move,” said Yue, adding that the right of refugees and displaced people was a top priority for UNESCO.

Commenting on the report, Ita Sheehy, Senior Education Advisor at UNHCR, the  UN Refugee Agency, said that it was crucial that countries looked “at their teacher training programmes and in particular how teachers are being trained to deal with diversity in the classroom”. When it comes to refugee teachers, she underlined that “they are trained, they have experience, they  should be included and involved in the education response to refugees. We should use their talents”.

EI: support teachers and include refugees in the education system

During his speech, Dennis Sinyolo, Senior Coordinator, Education and Employment at Education International, reminded the audience that rising discrimination, racism and xenophobia and the unprecedented scale of human displacement during recent years highlight the urgent need for a global commitment to fair migration and coherent, rights-based policies. He regretted that millions of migrants and refugees continue to be denied the fundamental right to quality education and to be discriminated against. In his view, “the 2019 GEM Report reminds us of the urgent need to address the root causes of migration and displacement and to make our education systems, schools and all education institutions more inclusive, sensitive and responsive to the needs of people and children on the move.” He reminded that governments needed to ensure that the curriculum and learning materials reflected the diversity of students, and should be developed with the full involvement of educators and their unions.

In order to achieve quality education for all he underlined that “teachers and education support personnel should be empowered and given the necessary skills, tools and support.” Sinyolo also called for immediate action to harness the skills and competences of migrant and refugee teachers and educators, ensuring that their working conditions are no less than those of local teachers with equivalent qualifications. “We have to build bridges, not walls,” he concluded.