Education crisis:

10 reasons why we must invest in education for displaced children

Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Invest in education

Lack of investment has resulted in us losing an entire generation of displaced children. But they can be saved if you are willing to invest more in education and our common future. It’s urgent, and we cannot afford not to help.


Even before the coronavirus crisis led to closed schools, more than 127 million children and young people in war-torn and crisis-stricken areas were out of school.

At the very end of the education queue, we find children who have been forced to flee their homes. Without education, they are vulnerable to many dangers. Life is put on hold and they face an uncertain future.

“If we turn our backs on these children, the consequences could be disastrous,” says Annelies Ollieuz, who leads the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) work with education.

“Many children risk being recruited as child soldiers, being subjected to sexual violence, ending up as child labourers or child brides. Not least, we rob them of the hope of a better future.”

LIBERIA: During the Ebola epidemic of 2014/15, schools were closed for over seven months. Here, Annelies Ollieuz prepares teachers and staff before schools reopen in the capital Monrovia. Photo: Eirik Christophersen/NRC

LIBERIA: During the Ebola epidemic of 2014/15, schools were closed for over seven months. Here, Annelies Ollieuz prepares teachers and staff before schools reopen in the capital Monrovia. Photo: Eirik Christophersen/NRC

She points out that children not only lose the opportunity to learn to read, write and count, they also miss out on acquiring skills that increase self-confidence and the ability to take care of themselves, their family, the local community, nature and the environment.

In addition, schools are places where children in war-torn and crisis-stricken areas can have the opportunity to cope with stress and deal with trauma.

Ollieuz believes that we cannot afford to continue to neglect this generation of children and at the same time expect them to help rebuild their war-torn countries and create stable and peaceful societies.

“And, the longer the children are out of school, the more likely it is that they will never return,” she warns.

Support our work and make sure that more displaced children can receive an education.


Here are ten reasons why we need to invest more in education for displaced children:

#1: Children are vulnerable to abuse

Photo: Alamy Stock Photo/NTB

Photo: Alamy Stock Photo/NTB

Displaced children are very vulnerable to abuse. Many become victims of human trafficking and sexual assault, forced recruitment by armed groups and exploitation by criminal gangs.

If children go to school, they are less at risk.

Education is a human right
The right to education is enshrined in Article 26 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948. The declaration advocates free and compulsory primary education. The Convention on the Rights of the Child from 1989 states that countries should make higher education accessible to all.


How you can help:

With your support, we can provide more displaced families with financial support and help them to pay rent, so that they can afford to send their children to school. We also provide education for the children themselves.

#2 Schools are being attacked

AFGHANISTAN/Kandahar: Nazir, 13, rides past his school, which was destroyed by a car bomb in November last year. NRC rebuild the destroyed classrooms, but the school was attacked and destroyed again in June 2021. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

AFGHANISTAN/Kandahar: Nazir, 13, rides past his school, which was destroyed by a car bomb in November last year. NRC rebuild the destroyed classrooms, but the school was attacked and destroyed again in June 2021. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Acts of violence and war lead to parents keeping their children home from school. Increasingly, schools are being used for military purposes or becoming military targets in war.

This includes direct attacks on school buildings, pupils and teachers, military use of school buildings, military recruitment at schools or on the way to school, and sexual assaults committed by soldiers and insurgents.


How you can help:

With your support, we can renovate and build more new schools. At the same time, we work to create safe arenas for learning, prevent attacks on schools and keep schools from being used for military purposes.

#3: Girls are especially affected

AFGHANISTAN/Kabul: On 11 May 2021, a girls’ school was bombed in an attack. At least 80 people were killed, most of them schoolchildren. The photo shows a schoolbag that belonged to one of the victims. Photo: NTB/XINHUA

AFGHANISTAN/Kabul: On 11 May 2021, a girls’ school was bombed in an attack. At least 80 people were killed, most of them schoolchildren. The photo shows a schoolbag that belonged to one of the victims. Photo: NTB/XINHUA

A bouquet of flowers and a schoolbag are placed on a school desk. The desk belonged to one of the victims of an attack on a Kabul girls’ school in May this year. At least 80 people were killed in the attack. Most were schoolgirls between the ages of 11 and 15, about to leave school for the day.

Education for girls is a social and political issue in some countries. Attacks on girls' schools, girls and female teachers are increasing, as are kidnappings. This leads to many girls never going to school in the first place.


How you can help:

With your support, we can ensure that more parents send their daughters to school. We help the local community and the authorities prioritise education for girls and make schools a safe place for girls as well as boys.

UN Sustainable Development Goal #4
In 2015, UN member states adopted 17 goals for a sustainable future, and quality education is one of those goals. Sustainable Development Goal #4 is entitled: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

A good education is the basis for improving people’s lives. Girls and boys should have equal access to good quality education, and it should be free.

#4: Children struggle with the trauma of war

JORDAN: Malak helps her younger siblings deal with mental stress, which increased after NRC’s learning centre was closed due to the pandemic. Photo: Daniel Wheeler/NRC

JORDAN: Malak helps her younger siblings deal with mental stress, which increased after NRC’s learning centre was closed due to the pandemic. Photo: Daniel Wheeler/NRC

Schools give displaced children and young people access to vital services such as healthcare and psychosocial support. Some children struggle with trauma and nightmares linked to their experience of war and violence or a dramatic journey. Schools are therefore important places for children to receive help.


How you can help:

With your help, we can train teachers, create our own classrooms, support parents, and teach children how to cope with mental stress and feel secure.

Support our work today.

#5: Girls are married off at a young age

JORDAN: Syrian refugee girls play football outside one of NRC’s schools in Zaatari refugee camp. Photo: Hussein Amri/NRC

JORDAN: Syrian refugee girls play football outside one of NRC’s schools in Zaatari refugee camp. Photo: Hussein Amri/NRC

When families are forced to flee their homes, parents can feel forced to marry off their daughters at a young age. This is often due to poor family finances and parents thinking that marriage will give their daughters greater protection.

The results can be catastrophic. Girls may be at risk of becoming pregnant at a very young age, leading to complications. Some experience domestic violence, while many miss out on schooling and the opportunity to do paid work.

The girls also risk becoming isolated and losing contact with their peers.


How you can help:

With your help, we can ensure that more displaced families can support themselves and send their daughters to school instead of marrying them off at a young age.

We also provide classes specifically for girls, and we aim to have girls make up at least half of the children who receive assistance through our education programmes.

#6: Children are forced to work

SYRIA: Displaced young Syrian boys work at a makeshift oil refinery in the northern countryside of Aleppo. Photo: NTB/AFP/Bakr Alkasem

SYRIA: Displaced young Syrian boys work at a makeshift oil refinery in the northern countryside of Aleppo. Photo: NTB/AFP/Bakr Alkasem

Many displaced families lack income and cannot afford to send their children to school. Often, the children are forced to work to provide the family with food and other necessities.

How you can prevent child labour!

In Syria, three out of four children have to work to support their families. In neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon, more than half of Syrian refugee children are forced to work or beg. The youngest are as young as five years old.


How you can help:

With your help, we can provide more displaced families with financial support and help them to pay rent, so that they can afford to send their children to school.

We also provide education for children, preventing them from having to work or being exposed to human trafficking.

#7: Children struggling to make up for lost schooling

SYRIA: NRC works with children such as Rem, 15, who is out of school because of the war. We work to get them back to school so they can have the opportunity to make up for lost time. Photo: Tareq Mnadili/NRC

SYRIA: NRC works with children such as Rem, 15, who is out of school because of the war. We work to get them back to school so they can have the opportunity to make up for lost time. Photo: Tareq Mnadili/NRC

The longer that children are out of school, the more likely it is that they will never return. Parents’ poor finances, a different curriculum and language, a long walk to school, and lack of documents and qualifications can all be obstacles to getting displaced children back to school.


How you can help:

With your help, we can ensure that more displaced families are able to support themselves and have the documents they need.

We also provide special classes where children have the opportunity to make up for lost schooling, so that they can continue their education at a regular school.

#8: Young people don’t get to use their skills

Philemon used to be a tailor’s apprentice, but violence in north-east Nigeria forced him to flee his home. Photo: Samuel Jegede/NRC

Philemon used to be a tailor’s apprentice, but violence in north-east Nigeria forced him to flee his home. Photo: Samuel Jegede/NRC

Displaced young people struggle more than others to get an education. Only three per cent of the world’s refugees go to university or take higher education, while 34 per cent of the world’s young people overall have this opportunity.

Most of the world’s refugees live in poor neighbouring countries that are unable to provide education to all young people. Consequently, they are excluded from important social arenas and struggle to become integrated into their local community.

Many desperate refugees are forced to embark on life-threatening journeys in search of a safer and better future.


How you can help:

Together, we can ensure that more young people receive education and vocational training, so that they can use their resources and support themselves.

We also make sure that young people receive vocational training and have the opportunity to start their own business.

#9: Parents are under pressure

COLOMBIA: Wendy, 9, and her mother Diana, 30, were forced to flee due to violence and threats. Now, Wendy finally has the opportunity to start school and Diana is happy that her daughter has a safer life and a brighter future. Photo: Fernanda Pineda/NRC

COLOMBIA: Wendy, 9, and her mother Diana, 30, were forced to flee due to violence and threats. Now, Wendy finally has the opportunity to start school and Diana is happy that her daughter has a safer life and a brighter future. Photo: Fernanda Pineda/NRC

A life of displacement is demanding for many parents. They may be single parents or have had to flee alone with their children. They have to establish themselves in a new place without a network of family and friends. And they often struggle to find work and support their families. This makes school especially important.


How you can help:

With your support, we can train more teachers, build and renovate more schools and ensure that more displaced families can send their children to school. In this way, we relieve the parents of some of their burden and give the children a safe arena for learning and social activity.

#10: Covid-19 affects the most vulnerable the most

BURKINA FASO: A group of schoolchildren follow distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic using a radio distributed by NRC. Photo: Adama Kouraogo/NRC

BURKINA FASO: A group of schoolchildren follow distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic using a radio distributed by NRC. Photo: Adama Kouraogo/NRC

With the coronavirus crisis leading to closed schools, displaced children risk ending up even further back in the education queue unless they receive help. Displaced families often live in cramped quarters, in small apartments or tents, and often with other families.

They must often share water, wash basins and toilets with others. Electricity and internet access are often limited or lacking entirely. Home-schooling under such conditions is nearly impossible.

In addition, the pandemic has led to a reduction or loss of income and many displaced families can no longer afford to send their children to school.


How you can help:

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have worked around the clock to secure the right to education for children and young people. We are using distance learning to meet children’s needs. We use radios, mobile phones and WhatsApp, combined with follow-up phone calls to provide guidance and support.

In addition, we ensure that families who have lost their income can afford to send their children to school and that the children receive enough food so that they have the energy to pay attention in class. With your support we can help even more people.