Published by UNHCR as part of their report: #HerTurn, READ THE FULL ONLINE REPORT!

 

#HER TURN: It’s time to make refugee girls’ education a priority

1. Schools must make space for girls.

It is girls who most often lose out in the competition for a place in the classroom. More school places for refugee girls – and for their peers in the communities that host them – are desperately needed. Refugee children around the world are affected by a shortage of school places, particularly at secondary level, where the shortfall is acute.[11] Donors and agencies alike need to support policies that ensure inclusive and equitable access as the way to redress the balance. By boosting capacity, we will also benefit girls in host communities as well as refugees, bringing long-term advantages and improved resilience to successive generations in areas that need help the most.

Tabu Sunday, 14, at school in Imvepi settlement, Uganda. She enjoys attending school despite overcrowded classrooms. © UNHCR/Peter Caton

Refugee children from El Salvador walk to school in Chiapas, Mexico. A growing refugee crisis in Central America has seen hundreds of thousands escape gang violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. © UNHCR/Daniele Volpe

2. No girl should miss school because the journey to school is too far or too dangerous.

Refugee girls need better protection from harassment, sexual assault and kidnap on the way to school. Community action to protect refugee children with support from local authorities should be a priority. “School trains,” when groups of pupils travel together with a regular adult escort, are a solution when the school is within walking distance. However, long journeys to secondary school are a deterrent for many children, particularly girls. Improved transport, such as the provision of all-girl buses, can determine whether refugee girls are allowed to go to school by their parents or not. Boarding schools for girls have proven successful in some settings, as well as hostels where girls can stay in safety during the school week or term.

3. Schools must be adapted to girls’ needs.

No girl should have to miss school because they lack menstrual hygiene products, access to clean water or private and safe toilets. When separate toilet facilities are not provided for girls, they are less likely to go to school. Schools need support to provide these basic facilities and products.

Toilets at an accommodation site for refugees in Alexandria, Greece. © UNHCR/Yorgos Kyvernitis

Ekhlas Ahmed accompanies her students on a field trip in Portland, Maine, United States. Ekhlas is a refugee from Sudan who was resettled to the USA as a child and is now a high school teacher. © UNHCR/Heather Perry

4. There can be no room for gender-based bullying, harassment and violence in schools.

Male and female teachers require ongoing training to ensure they promote best practice and guard against behaviour that will deter girls from setting foot in the classroom. Teachers are in the perfect position to promote and instil ideas of gender equality and mutual respect among girls and boys.

5. Refugee families need incentives and encouragement to keep girls in school.

If refugee adults are able to work and support their families, they are more likely to let their children stay in school. Frequent parent-teacher meetings can help parents understand their role in facilitating effective schooling. The provision of light and sustainable energy to refugee homes can also enable many girls to go to school because they don’t need to spend hours collecting firewood. It also means they can do their homework or catch up on their studies after nightfall.

A Syrian refugee mother helps her children with their school work in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, by the light of a solar powered lamp. © UNHCR/Sebastian Rich

Alaa Kassab, 25, a refugee from Syria, is an assistant teacher at a primary school in Geltow, Germany. Before fleeing the war, she taught at a bilingual school in Aleppo. © UNHCR/Gordon Welters

6. Refugee pupils need more female teachers.

There is an urgent need to recruit and train more female teachers from within both host and refugee communities. Girls and boys need female role models, but girls in particular are likely to be encouraged and motivated by the presence of an educated woman in the classroom.

7. With some extra help, girls can catch up and power on.

Extracurricular activities provide remedial, enrichment or mentoring services to enable girls to catch up (where necessary), boost their studies and thrive both academically and emotionally. While these should not be seen as an alternative to regular school, they can help to improve academic performance and, as a result, self-confidence.

Refugee children from South Sudan attending primary school in Bidibidi refugee settlement in northern Uganda. © UNHCR/Isaac Kasamani

Watch the video summary here:

7 ways to help refugee girls go to school (Sylvie Francis, producer)

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