Report “Left Behind” of the UN Refugees Office shows that only 1% of 6.4 million refugees in scholar age will get in university
By Victória Brotto
From Strasbourg (France)
Review by Márcia Passoni
Portuguese version – click here
“To whom does Yagani belong?”, asks, in English, the teacher Patrick Abade in the middle of a crowded classroom. He snaps his fingers, dances and put the question into a musical rhythm – and repeats it three times. The students, even though pressed at each other’s shoulders, laugh and follow the teacher. “To whom does Yagani belong?”, sing all together.
Yagani is a small primary school in Bidibidi, Uganda. There are local students and also refugee kids – most of them from South Sudan. They are part of the 61% of refugee children aged from 5 to 7 who go to school – this percentage contrasts with the percentage of local kids who also go to school; they are numbered in 91%. It means that a refugee child has 5 times less chance to go to school than a non-refugee one.
In some years from now, when these kids get older and get into their teenager’s time, most of them will stop their studies as there will not be enough space or opportunity for them. From all the teenager refugees, only 23% get into Elementary School – as 83% of the other teens go to school frequently.
And when they become youngsters, only 1 out of 100 will manage to go to university – what representes 1% out of a population of 6.4 million young refugees. The other 99% – more than 5 million people – will have no academic certificate what will mean for them living in the outskirts of the society after scaping from being murdered in their own countries and after leaving their houses and families behind.
The figures are from the UN Refugee Office published last Wednesday in the so-called report “Left Behind”. “Education must be an integral part of the emergency response to a refugee crisis. It can provide a protective and stable environment for these young people when all around them seems to have descended into chaos. It includes life-saving skills, promotes resilience and self-reliance, and helps to meet the psychological and social needs of children affected by conflict. Education is not a luxury – it is a basic need”, said the High-Commissioner of the UNHCR, Filippo Grandi.
In the report, Grandi criticizes the lack of response from after the New York Declaration last year. “The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, signed by 193 countries, put education at the forefront of the international response”, he says and adds: “Despite the overwhelming support for the New York Declaration, one year on, refugees are in real danger of being left behind in terms of education,” said Grandi. “Ensuring that refugees have equitable access to quality education is a shared responsibility. It is time for all of us to put words into action.”
“There is a clear gap in opportunity for refugee and non-refugee children, and we must do everything in our power to close it. This means investing in classrooms and teachers for refugees. It means giving them access to appropriate material. It also means supporting girls so that they have the same opportunities as boys”, says Alex Wek, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Alek left her village behind at the age of 14 because of the local civil war. She moved with her family to London, England, where she studied Fashion as bachelor. “The world has much to lose if it allows whole generations of refugees to grow up uneducated and alienated.”
Nyahok, the girl who wants to fly
Nyahok Reath, aged 16, wants to study to get into an airplane and fly – but not as a passenger. The girl Nyahok, from Nasser, South Sudan, wants to be a pilot. “My dream has always been to be a pilot,” she says. “When I was younger, I used to see a lot of planes flying around Nasser. I used to see the pilots when they got out of the planes in their fancy uniforms. I want to go to every country”, she said to the UNHCR team. Nyahok is part of the 67% of the refugee teens who are out of school. She and her family left South Sudan because of the civil war and they went to Ethiopia, they were encamped there and with her uncle’s aid, she could move to Nairobi, Quenia, to keep studying. But 6 months after, she had to stop because her uncle could not pay her school fees.
Hani al-Moliya escaped from Homs, Syria, when he was still a teenager. He left his home-town with his family after his uncle was killed because he didn’t want to leave his house. But Hani told Melissa Fleming, ACNUR spokesperson, that before he needed to leave, he took with him his High School certificate.
“I knew my life was depending on it. I am nothing without education”, he said to Mellissa Fleming. He and his family lived in a camp in Libanon and after, Hani got asylum in Canada. Nowadays, he studies Computer Engineer in Ryerson University, in Toronto.
“When people ask why the world’s refugee problem is our collective problem, I often think of Hani – a boy who reached for his high-school diploma when he had to leave almost all of his other possessions in Homs”, says Melissa Fleming. And she adds: “We have to invest in young people as brave, resourceful and determined as Hani al-Moliya.”
“They want to know about us and we want to know about them. There’s so much to tell and explain. Sometimes I translate for the others into Arabic or German”, explains Kamala, 10, Syrian refugee in Golzow, Germany.
According to a new study made by the National Bureau of Economics Research in the USA, the longer the refugees live in the US, the more their economic outcomes improve and the less they rely on government assistance. The study “Social and Economic Incomes of Refugees in US: Evidence from ACS” based their research on the data base of the American Community Survey (ACS).
They analyse the situation of refugees aged from 18 to 45, that have arrived in United States in the last 25 years. According to the study, the ones who arrived younger than 14 years old have more economic autonomy nowadays, than the old ones in that time.
For William Evans, a Notre Dame economist and one of the authors of the study , it is wrong to focus on the cost only of a refugee for the state, because they produce more incomes than outcomes. The study has revealed that in 20 years, the refugees contributed 20,000 dollars more to the government than they got in benefits. “You can’t just look at one side of this equation. They’re getting benefits, but they are also producing incomes”, said Mr. Evans.
For the professor of the Oxford Refugee Study Centre (RSC), Alexander Betts, exclusion of refugees in society comes from a political idea that ‘all refugees are a burden’. “But they are not. They are humans beings that need their capacities being flourished”, he said during his speech in TEDX in Vancouver, Canada, last year. “Politicians frame the issue that if we help refugees we are imposing costs on citizens. We tend to have a collective assumption that refugee will be an inevitable burden to society but they don’t have to, they can contribute.”
Mojtaba Tavakoli is about to start his PhD in neurodegenerative disorders in the University of Viena, where he is graduated in the Faculty of Medicine in molecular biology. Mojtaba is afghan and arrived in Austria ten years ago as asylum seeker at the age of 13. He left his village in the countryside of Ghanzi behind with his family because they were being persecuted. They went to Turkey and after, in a boat, just he and his brother made the journey to Europe. But his brother didn’t survive. “Europe was the place where we could be safe.” Realocated to Austria, the boy was adopted by an austrian scientistic couple and then he was integrated into the austriac education system.
In his new country, now as a scientist doctor, he helped to found the Association of Afghans Pupils and Students in Austria to encourage his fellows to “take na interest in politics and get involved in shaping the future of their new homeland”, says the UN report.
The Mojtaba’s parents will live with him in a nearby future- that is what he wants. In his graduation ceremony, all the family were there: afeghan and austriac parents. His father, Joma Ali, was smilling and said: “This is a good evening.”