Today, we somberly observe World Refugee Day amid reminders that support for refugees and vulnerable populations through education is now more urgent than ever.
UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, recently estimated that, for the first time in history, the number of forcibly displaced people fleeing persecution, war, violence, and other violations of fundamental rights is more than 80 million. The Arab region has been disproportionately affected: Although it accounts for less than 6 percent of the global population, it hosts 32 percent of all refugees and 38 percent of all people internally displaced by conflict, according to the U.N.’s Arab States 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report.
Given the sheer numbers of refugees and migrants and the health and economic downturns due an unexpected pandemic, the region is an incubator for humanitarian crises that have stymied the pace of education development, putting youth at a greater risk of exploitation.
Globally, the number of forcibly displaced people will continue to grow as conflicts threaten individuals and families. The future for those who flee their country remains bleak, as 86 percent of them are hosted in developing countries that lack the resources to sustainably support a growing population. Moreover, Covid-19 has exacerbated the challenges that already exist, particularly in education, as donors focus primarily on health and safety.
In Lebanon and Jordan, which host an unmercifully high number of refugees, less than 5 percent of refugees completed secondary education even before Covid. The recent focus on online learning is causing greater disparities as many of the most marginalized refugees lack access to reliable technology and the Internet. (See two related articles: “Few Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon Get Into Secondary Education” and “The Shift to Online Education in the Arab World Is Intensifying Inequality.”)