26 March 2019

Africa: Laws Failing Migrant and Refugee Children - Experts

The 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report launched on Sunday in Marrakech, Morocco, recommends that, among others, migrant and refugee children need to be included in the national education system.

The report was launched ahead of the Economic Commission for Africa's (ECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

According to Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, currently, laws and policies are failing migrant and refugee children by negating their rights and ignoring their needs.

In her foreword, Azoulay noted that ignoring the education of migrants squanders a great deal of human potential.

"Sometimes simple paperwork, lack of data or bureaucratic and uncoordinated systems mean many people fall through administrative cracks. Yet investing in the education of the highly talented and driven migrants and refugees can boost development and economic growth not only in host countries but also countries of origin," Azoulay noted.

"Provision of education in itself is not sufficient. The school environment needs to adapt to and support the specific needs of those on the move. Placing immigrants and refugees in the same schools with host populations is an important starting point to building social cohesion. However, the way and the language in which lessons are taught, as well as discrimination, can drive them away."

The report points to Rwanda as one of those countries doing its best for refugee children, despite challenges.

Rwanda - with an affected population of 170,000 people, mostly from Burundi and the DR Congo - pledged in 2016 to include 18,000 refugee children in primary schools and 35,000 adolescents in secondary schools, eliminating the need for parallel camp-based provision.

Between 2016 and 2017, the refugee enrolment rate increased from 54% to 80% in primary and from 34% to 73% in secondary schools. Rwanda joined the comprehensive refugee response framework (CRRF) in February 2018.

The CRRF is a UNHCR tool - in line with a vision for a fairer and more sustainable response to refugee crises - to ensure, among others, that countries that host refugees are better supported, refugees are included in communities, and all refugee children go to school.

The CRRF specifies key elements for a comprehensive response to any large movement of refugees. These include rapid and well-supported reception and admissions.

After the report's launch, Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report, team, told The New Times that countries have a lot to learn from Rwanda.

"Rwanda benefitted from the CRRF to assign resources to support Burundi refugees in preparatory classes and then swiftly transition them to mainstream classes," Antoninis said.

"And this is a very good practice that shows a spirit of shared responsibility and solidarity for refugee children and their education."

Sarah Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology at the African Union Commission, said the report is of particular importance to the AU.

The AU theme this year is "Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement."

It is estimated that a total of 68.5 million persons are displaced, across the world. This is by far the highest ever recorded figure since the Second World War. Globally, the number of displaced populations increased in 2017 by 2.9 million.

Some 85 per cent of the refugees are hosted by developing countries "putting significant strain and pressure on the resources of countries and local communities."

In February 2015, African ministers of education met in Kigali - during a meeting led by the AU Commission and UNESCO - to agree on a common position and identify priority areas for the development of education on the continent.

Agbor said the African education strategy is "for the first time in alignment with global goals."

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