SIRIUS Statement on Urgent Response for the Education of Refugees
13 million children are being denied their right to an education because of the wars in the Mideast, according to the UN. In fact, 1 in 2 Syrian refugees are actually children (2.2 million). 1 in 4 schools in Syria have closed since the conflict and 52,000 teachers have left their posts. Half of Syria’s 2.2 million refugee children remained out of school in the 2013/14 school year, despite the continued efforts of UN agencies UNICEF and UNHCR. Children remain out of school because of breaks in their school career, lack of resources, lack of documents and the need to work for their family.For example in Turkey, while most school‐age children living in camps are attending school, attendance rates fall to around 1/4 for children in urban areas, where the vast majority of Syrian refugees live without full access to the education system or adequate support to learn Turkish.
War and displacement are creating a lost generation of children in the Mideast. Without the necessary education and psychosocial support, these children will lose the chance to recover in their academic and personal development. The long‐term impact of Syrian children never returning to school has been estimated at 5.4% of Syria’s GDP, or nearly 2 billion euros, according to Save the Children.The UN is calling on donor countries and individuals to fund the 556 million euros needed for education for Syrian children. Yet only 2% of international humanitarian aid is allocated to education.
Unfortunately, refugee children’s obstacles to an education are not confined to war‐torn countries and camps. Since refugees lack legal channels into Europe, families must undertake long and potentially deadly journeys before arriving in a country offering them a real chance for protection and integration. These children on the move usually receive no educational or psychosocial support along the way and limited support upon arrival in many reception centres and school systems in the EU, particularly in new destination countries. When parents choose to go alone and reunite later with their children, demanding requirements and procedures delay their arrival. The OECD concludes that family reunion should happen as soon as possible because its PISA study shows that every extra year spent waiting outside the country has a negative impact on immigrant children’s ability to catch up at school and learn the language.
As the European policy network on migrant education, SIRIUS calls on the EU and its Member States to respond to the specific education needs of refugee children and students in the EU and abroad. Their right to an education is guaranteed under international law, most notably the Geneva Convention, and under EU law through the ‘Common European Asylum System’. SIRIUS’ years of research have found that, apart from a few good practices in specific schools and areas, Europe’s teachers generally lack the training and support to properly serve immigrant pupils or teach about immigration and diversity. Refugee communities are also playing their part to improve the education of their and others’ children, as SIRIUS noted for example in Bulgaria and Hungary.
SIRIUS is recommending more concrete EU actions on refugee education, building on its 2014 comprehensive policy agenda and recommendations from stakeholders such as Europe’s teachers’ unions, and adult educators. The undersigning organisations, aware of huge challenge ahead of us to support these children, encourage the European bodies to:
- Create and monitor a long‐term policy on how to best use EU policies and funds to support the education of children and youngsters from refugee families in Europe
- Design this policy through an ‘ad hoc’ EU Committee on the education of children and youngsters from refugee families, including the relevant European and international institutions and European NGOs on migration or education
- Consult in this design with the European Parliament and with experts and civil society through a 1‐day European conference
- Substantially increase funds and set up specific budgets for the education of refugees outside the EU as a part of humanitarian aid and for the education of refugee children and youngsters as a part of asylum and integration support
- Increase the number of refugee children and students receiving protection‐sensitive scholarships to study in Europe, including through the EU’s Erasmus Mundus programme
- Evaluate the impact of reception and family reunion policies on the educational and psychosocial development of children and then propose solutions at EU level
- Remove obstacles and introduce support programmes for refugee teachers and professors to (re)qualify and teach in Europe
- Identify and support best practices on the educational and psychosocial support to refugee children and youngsters
- Introduce a specific track on refugee education through lifelong learning and adult education, with the support of the European Association for Education of Adults
- Coordinate the implementation of these measures and budgets, identify specific contact persons for migrant and refugee education within Member States’ education ministries and the European Commission’s DG Education and Culture
This statement can be signed here.
The German version can be downloaded here.