Total migrant and refugee children could ‘fill half a million classrooms’

Total migrant and refugee children could ‘fill half a million classrooms’

The number of school-aged migrant and refugee children has grown significantly over the past few years, a report made by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) showed.

In its 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report entitled “Migration, displacement, and education”, UNESCO said that the number of migrant and refugee children around the world has surged by 26 percent since 2000 and could fill half a million classrooms.

Despite the increase, the report highlighted shortcomings in a quality education system, which a right that should be afforded by both learners and the communities they live in.

Over a billion ‘missed school days’

Two years since the landmark New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016, refugees were said to have missed 1.5 billion days of school.

However, it should be noted that the number of refugees increased in the national education systems as seen in some of the top 10 refugee-hosting countries, which include Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda, as well as Canada and Ireland, which are among the global leaders in implementing inclusive education policies for immigrants.

On the other hand, limited access to education for refugees are given by countries such as Australia, Hungary, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Mexico, while refugees in Bangladesh, United Republic of Tanzania, Thailand, and in Pakistan can only get a non-formal and community-based education, some of which are not certified.

Meanwhile, Rwanda and the Islamic Republic of Iran were cited for their investments in ensuring that refugees attend school with its nationals, while Turkey was recognised for its commitment to include all refugees in its national education system by 2020, as have seven countries in East Africa. Uganda has fulfilled the same promise.

“Everyone loses when the education of migrants and refugees is ignored. Education is the key to inclusion and cohesion,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said.

“Increased classroom diversity, while challenging for teachers, can also enhance respect for diversity and an opportunity to learn from others. It is the best way to make communities stronger and more resilient,” she added.

According to the report, half of the world’s forcibly displaced people were aged under 18, yet many countries exclude them from their national education system.


Angelica is a reporter for Global Education Times with a focus on the ‘business of education’, and on Asia-Pacific and South American education affairs. An experienced journalist, Angelica also writes for the oldest English newspaper in the Philippines, The Manila Times, as the publication’s business correspondent.
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