Globally, nearly 30 million children have been driven from their homes due to conflict and violence, as a part of the global refugee crisis. What does this mean for these children, their childhood, and their future? Learn about the hope, protection, and opportunity that education can bring a child refugee and how one bill currently in Congress can help – especially for the most vulnerable.
Alex Whittle, from World Vision Jordan, shares the story of Shaima
“We were in our village when the missiles and bombs hit,” says Shaima, a sixth-grader. She is a Syrian refugee in Jordan and lives with her father and mother. “All of the houses were destroyed. An explosion happened at the back of the school, so, that’s when I stopped going.”
Her family heard that things were better in Jordan, so they walked the 72-kilometer journey. But because of the heat from the sun, her sister got sunstroke and died.
“I don’t feel I can talk to my mother about my sister’s death because she’s grieving for my sister a lot. I don’t like to see tears on her face. I felt sad—our family was very close, and suddenly, we were torn apart.”
Now Shaima and her family are at the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan where World Vision works. Here, she is able to go to school, drink clean water, and participate in safe, fun activities like soccer.
“I wake up at five or six in the morning. I bring a pan full of water inside. I would heat the water because it is very cold from outside. Then, I check my homework before I go to school. I like school a lot because I get to learn a lot of different things. When I get back from school, I wash, do my homework, and then I go to the football pitch, where I meet my friends.”
Shaima no longer feels scared and thanks to the support she found with World Vision programs, has a bright future ahead of her. Because of the suffering she witnessed, she hopes to become a pediatrician. God willing, she will achieve her dreams.
Watch Shaima’s Story
When the Most Vulnerable are Without Education
Not every refugee child has the opportunity that Shaima has been given. With over 65 million people forced from their homes worldwide (half children), the global community must come together and make sure every child has an education, especially girls who are at high risk for early marriage, human trafficking, and other forms of exploitation. Across the globe, 91 percent of children go to primary school, but this number drops to 50 percent in refugee camps. Children who live in conflict-affected countries are more than twice as likely to be out of school – or 2.5 times more likely if the child is a girl. Young women are 90 percent less likely to be in secondary schools than their peers in non-conflict settings.
Why Does Education Matter?
- Education is protective, especially for girls. Without access to education, refugee children and adolescents are vulnerable to child labor, exploitation and negative coping behaviors. In certain regions, out of school boys are especially vulnerable to recruitment to armed groups. The opportunity for girls to continue education can protect them from the risks of early marriage and sexual exploitation. Schools provides a safe space for personal development and creates positive social networks for children whose lives have been disrupted by instability and violence.
- Education provides opportunity for future livelihood and increases options for young people. With primary and secondary education, a child gains invaluable skills, becomes a candidate to go to university, and has more choices as an adult.
- Education builds stronger and healthier futures for individuals and communities. Women who have gone to school are more likely to ensure that the next generation goes to school. They have healthier children and rates of child marriage, infant deaths, and maternal deaths all drop. Further, women with an education earn higher wages and invest back into their families and communities, helping to break the cycle of poverty.
Legislation that can Help
A new bill can change the outcome for refugee children who lack access to education. Through partnership, training, and innovative solutions, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education Act (H.R. 2408, S. 1580) will prioritize support for vulnerable children, specifically girls in refugee settings, to have access to primary and secondary education. Versions of this bill are currently in the House and Senate. Before this bill can become law, your representatives need to hear that their constituents support this bill. Specifically, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education Act will –
- Encourage countries hosting refugee camps to support efforts to provide access to safe, quality education to all children;
- Help increase the access of displaced children, especially displaced girls, to educational, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunities, including through the governmental authorities responsible for educational or youth services in host countries;
- Provide coordination among governments, nongovernmental organizations, faith-based organizations, and communities to build support for access to safe education;
- Promote hosting refugee children within local educational systems;
- Support innovative approaches to providing safe primary and secondary educational opportunities in circumstances where inclusion is not possible or appropriate;
- Require measures be incorporated to evaluate the impact of programs on girls, with respect to the reduction of child marriage, gender-based violence, and severe forms of human trafficking.
Today, you can help children like Shaima who do not have a path to achieve their dreams. Take a stand for all children, including refugee children, to have access to safe, quality education. Contact Congress now.
Photo: Shaima, a Syrian refugee, sits in class. © 2017 World Vision/ photo by Alex Whittle