Globally, 91% of children attend primary school. For refugees, the figure is at only 61% – and in low-income countries it falls short of 50%. As refugee children get older, the obstacles only increase: just 23% of refugee adolescents are enrolled in secondary school, compared to 84% globally. In low-income countries – which host 28 per cent of the world’s refugees –, the number in secondary education is disturbingly low, at a mere 9%.
On the sidelines of my project for the UN Refugee Agency on tertiary education, I had the opportunity to visit several primary, middle and secondary schools in Kenya, Rwanda and Senegal. What I saw were eager students cramming crowded and crumbling classrooms to try and build a future for themselves.
Just outside Mahama refugee camp, in Easter Rwanda, for instance, the local community school has become, over the span of a few months (with the large influx of Burundian refugees), an institution with 190+ classrooms, providing education – in two shifts – to 20'000 students!