UNESCO and UNHCR on improving refugee youth education in the post-Covid context, a roundtable debate

Paris: UNESCO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are convening an online round table on Monday 13 July from 4 to 5.30 pm (2.00—3.30 pm, UTC) to examine ways to optimize schooling and learning for young refugees in the future post-epidemic context.

The discussion will be moderated by UN Special Envoy and actor Angelina Jolie, a refugee advocate of longstanding. The meeting is co-sponsored by Canada, the United Kingdom and the global fund Education Cannot Wait, which has earmarked its second Covid emergency allocation for refugees. Exchanges will take place in English with simultaneous translation into French.

The meeting will be opened by UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and Canada’s Minister of International Development, Karina Gould. The round table will then bring together young refugee students and graduates, as well as the ministers of education of Cameroon, Kenya and Pakistan, and representatives of the UNESCO’s Global Coalition for Education. In conclusion, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, Baroness Sugg, will summarize the debate.

The conversation will build on the observation of contradictory developments in education for refugees: While the trend to reopen schools appears to be gathering momentum, more than a billion learners worldwide are still excluded from compulsory education. Lockdowns are harshest for vulnerable groups, especially refugees. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, their children were twice as likely to be excluded from school, despite relative progress. A mere 63% of refugee children attend primary school and only 24% continue their secondary education.

The pandemic is likely to set back the modest progress made in recent years, especially for girls, at least 20 % of whom, are unlikely to resume their education after their schools reopen, according to a UNHCR estimates.

But there are some positive developments. A number of governments are including refugees in post-pandemic responses such as distance education, in line with their commitments under the Global Compact on Refugees. Participants in the debate will reflect on how to further strengthen such efforts.