Photo by Blaire Harmon on Unsplash
Photo by Blaire Harmon on Unsplash

Education International calls for equity audits to address exacerbated inequities facing refugee students and teachers

published 16 December 2021 updated 12 January 2022

Education International took the floor at the first High Level Officials Meeting hosted by the UN Refugee Agency to highlight the crippling impact of the pandemic on refugee access to quality education and to call for increased support for refugee teachers, as well as teachers in crisis and refugee-hosting contexts.

Taking place virtually on December 14 and 15, the High-Level Officials Meeting is part of the process of building a long-term framework for engagement of states and other actors in refugee situations, as set out in the Global Compact on Refugees. The Meeting provides an opportunity to take stock of the progress made so far and maintain momentum towards achieving of objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).

Equity audits are imperative to educational recovery for the most vulnerable

Education International welcomed the progress documented in the first GCR Indicator Report but expressed concern about the 1.8 million refugee children that remain out of school, stressing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable in education, including refugees, and in particular, girls.

EI called on governments to conduct educational equity audits without delay in order to inform recovery plans and help address the exacerbated inequities facing refugee students and educators, as a result of the pandemic. EI representative, Sonia Grigt, also reminded officials that teachers, education personnel and their unions are best placed to assess the impact of this unprecedented crisis on students and help design solutions for a swift and inclusive recovery in education.

Few of the pledges made by governments in relation to education specifically focus on teachers, despite their critical role in ensuring inclusive quality education. Moving forward, this gap must be addressed, and governments must step up efforts to support teachers and invest in the recruitment, retention, training, deployment, terms of employment and working conditions of teachers in crisis and refugee-hosting contexts. Governments must also recognise the qualifications of refugee teachers and ensure that they have an opportunity to pursue their teaching career under the same terms and conditions as their local peers.

Reacting to EI’s intervention, High-Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi recognised the importance of teachers and agreed that it is an often-overlooked aspect that deserves more attention and follow-up.

Watch the full intervention below ( the full statement can be downloaded on the HLOM's website)

Education – a critical tool for inclusion

Several of the interventions made during the High-Level Officials Meeting highlighted the essential role of education in the inclusion and integration of refugees.

In his opening statement, the High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi welcomed the progress made on education, with increased enrollment in secondary and tertiary levels reported. However, he also stressed that gains made in education are fragile, especially for girls, and much remains to be done in order to achieve the 263 pledges made in this sector and ensure access to quality inclusive education for all.

UNESCO representative Maki Katsuno-Hayashikawa, Director of the Division for Education 2030, drew attention to the fact that the needs and lived realities of refugee students and teachers were not adequately considered in the design of national Covid-19 response plans. Many refugees lack access to the devices needed to engage in remote emergency education during lockdowns. In addition to the learning losses, the pandemic has also undermined the protective function that schools often serve, exposing the most vulnerable to increased vulnerabilities such as forced marriage and unwanted pregnancy, which are likely to prevent many young refugee girls from returning to school. Ms Katsuno-Hayashikawa concluded that it is important for donors to consider the full spectrum of vulnerable learners’ needs.

In her intervention, the representative of the Global Partnership for Education, Margarita Focas-Licht, listed the three main challenges to refugee education: inadequate education funding, a lack of qualified teachers, and insufficient learning spaces. All these barriers must be addressed without delay in order to ensure the universal right to education for all refugee children and youth.

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