An Urgent Call to Protect the Education Rights of Migrants in Arab States
The Arab region has been more affected by migration and displacement than any other place on Earth, and this has slowed the educational progress of a generation of learners across the region, a new report says.
The report, titled “Arab States: Migration, Displacement and Education: Building Bridges, not Walls,” covers all levels of education and presents new case studies on internal migration in Egypt; international schools in the Gulf; double-shift schools in Lebanon; curricula for Palestinian refugees; and internal displacement in Iraq, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
“The report provides a comprehensive overview of issues for people on the move, which has no equivalent in terms of breadth and depth in the literature of the Arab States region,” Manos Antoninis, director of the team that produces the annual Global Education Monitoring Report for UNESCO, wrote in an email.
Separate Curricula for Migrants
The report, which was released last month at the WISE Summit 2019, in Qatar, highlights the importance of including migrants and refugees within national education systems.
Many refugee populations are now in segregated systems. For example, Sahrawi refugees in Algeria have a separate education system and curriculum. Malian refugees in camps in Mauritania still follow the Malian curriculum.
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In all Gulf Cooperation Council countries, which have the highest immigration rates in the world because of their need to import labor, migrants have to pay fees to attend public schools, with the exception of Bahrain. Private, parallel school systems are the norm, where students study the curriculum of their home country or some other international curriculum—but not the one of their host countries.
The report also shows the challenges countries face in the region to maintain strong inclusive systems. Jordan and Lebanon, for instance, adopted double-shift school systems, but require funds to support teachers and prepare for the system’s transition to a single shift system that could accommodate all students.
“With so many children and young people still out of school in this region, I would encourage education actors to reflect on the findings of the report at the country level and take concrete actions towards ensuring that all children and young people benefit from quality relevant education.”Emma Bonar
A youth specialist with the Norwegian Refugee Council in Jordan
Moreover, it analyzes the impact that reforming teacher-preparation programs can have on addressing the challenges and opportunities posed by migration and displacement. Teachers in internal displacement settings are often not paid or effectively trained. In Yemen, in governorates controlled by the Houthi rebels, teachers have not received their salaries since 2016. (See a related article, “Yemen: Chaos, War and Higher Education.”)
Teachers also need training in how to deal with displaced children who require psychosocial support in their classrooms, such as the estimated 13 percent of internally displaced children in Syria in 2018. (See a related article, “Refugee Youth Traumatized by War: Overwhelmed, Understudied.”)
‘Unmet Education Needs’
“The report is critical as it continues to shed light on the unmet education needs of children and young people in this region,” said Emma Bonar, a youth specialist with the Norwegian Refugee Council in Jordan. “With so many children and young people still out of school in this region, I would encourage education actors to reflect on the findings of the report at the country level and take concrete action towards ensuring that all children and young people benefit from quality relevant education.”
The report has seven key recommendations:
- Protect the right to education of migrants and displaced people.
- Prepare teachers of migrants and refugees to address diversity and hardship.
- Include migrants and displaced people in national education systems.
- Harness the potential of migrants and displaced people.
- Understand and plan for the education needs of migrants and displaced people.
- Support the education needs of migrants and displaced people in humanitarian and development aid.
- Represent migration and displacement histories in education accurately to challenge prejudices.
“All recommendations of the report are relevant and critical and it is only by comprehensively addressing all seven that we can really meet the needs of these groups,” Bonar said.
Still, based on her experience working in Jordan, where just 30 percent of Syrian youth are attending secondary school, she believes that recommendation number five, which emphasizes understanding and planning for students’ needs, is critical.
“It is imperative that stakeholders understand the complex factors linked to their lack of participation in order to support integration into formal learning pathways and in order to ensure a formal education system that is inclusive and responsive to the needs of all children and young people,” she said. “It is only through strategic and coordinated action by education stakeholders at all levels that we can really address the recommendations in the report.”