The workshop at Rafsanjan Settlement aimed at using the medium of art to strengthen collaborative behaviors and building self-esteem and confidence of some 250 refugee children. In addition, 18 local youth trainers were also coached in order to build the capacity of locals to work with children. The workshop is part of an EC-funded project on education facilitated by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and implemented by the partner Cre Art.
First speaker at the opening of the exhibition was Ms. Ghadimi, Government Representative and the Deputy at the Bureau of Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA) Tehran.
“We have to aim to use the security provided in [our] host country to provide sustainable programmes that ensure their access to education for as long as they are in our country. Across the country, we have some 400,000 Afghan students that are enrolled in schools and are studying – shoulder to shoulder – with [Iranian] children. But we have not stopped there. We’ve had agreements with NGOs in the field of education. We’ve taken steps further and further because we view education as a very important topic,” Ms. Ghadimi said.
The key to any development
The central role of education was further emphasized by Ambassador of Norway, Aud Lise Norheim, in her remarks at the event.
“Education is the key to any development, on an individual level, family level, community and national level and globally,” said Ambassador Norheim, explaining the role of the Norwegian Government as the co-chair of the United Nations Education Commission, which presented their key recommendations in a report before the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 2016.
“The art initiative is all about creativity, about imagination, about cooperation, about sharing everything that is so important in our daily life – as in schools and workplaces,” the Ambassador concluded.
Education is the best investment
NRC Iran Country Director, Mr. Vandecasteele, highlighted access to education as a key global priority adopted by the NRC, with the organisation aiming to reach 1 million displaced children annually with quality education.
“Iran, through the decision of the Supreme Leader to provide access to all Afghan children to public schools has brought life-changing opportunities for tens of thousands of Afghan children,” said Mr. Vandecasteele. “In support of this decision, NRC will increase its educational and psychosocial support for Afghan children. Countrywide, we plan to support over 10,000 newly enrolled Afghan children in public schools by the end of 2017.”
“More attention should be given to protracted crises such as the one facing Afghan communities in Iran. Educating children – and in particular girls – is the best investment to make”, he concluded, asking partners and international community to increase their education support to Iran.
11 million refugees globally are under the age of 18, accounting for some 51 per cent of the refugee population. This number has significantly risen since 2009, where 41 per cent of global refugees were minors. Meanwhile, the amount of time a refugee spends in exile is now nearly 20 years, double what it was in 1980s.
According to a recent report from the Malala foundation, almost 80 per cent of the adolescent refugees are out of school, with girls making up the majority of those excluded from education.
Regular attendance to schools is demonstrated to prevent child labour and reduce gender-based violence. Supporting education is critical to ensure safe environments where children can learn, play, cultivate their talents and find a sense of normality.