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News  |  13 November 2018

Investment needed to support refugee children

Four million refugee children do not attend school, a new H&M Foundation funded report from UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has found. This is an increase of half a million of out-of-school refugee children in just one year.
Shihnaz, 8 years, is an Afghan refugee and she attends primary school in Khazana refugee village in Peshawar, Pakistan. Photo credit: © UNHCR/Asif Shahzad
These lap desks, given to the children through the project with the H&M Foundation, as part of the Educate A Child programme, makes up for a lack of desks in a crowded classroom. Photo credit: © UNHCR/Asif Shahzad

As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the members of the United Nations pledged to ensure an “inclusive and equitable quality education” and to promote “lifelong learning opportunities for all”. But they will ring hollow to young refugees unless and until they experience real change and are given the same opportunities to go to school as others. The report, “Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis”, shows that refugee children in school is failing to keep pace with the growing refugee population. Only 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, compared to 92 per cent of children globally. As refugee children get older, this gap grows. Nearly two thirds of refugee children who go to primary school do not make it to secondary school. In total, 23 per cent of refugee children attend secondary school, compared to 84 per cent of children globally.

“School is the first place in months or even years where refugee children find any normality."

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

“School is the first place in months or even years where refugee children find any normality. Education is a way to help children heal, but it is also key to rebuilding their countries. Without education, the future of these children and their communities will be irrevocably damaged”, says Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Refugee children are often the most marginalised and hardest to reach, facing challenges in accessing quality education. Reasons to this includes a shortage of space in schools in the areas where they flee to, a lack of trained teachers, social exclusion, language barriers; not to mention the extreme poverty that can mean that there is not enough money to spare in the family for even the most basic school supplies. The fact that children do not have or cannot afford basic education materials is often one of the key barriers to school.

“H&M Foundation wants to contribute to positive change for refugees. This project is about including everyone, something that is needed now more than ever.”

Diana Amini, Global Manager at H&M Foundation

H&M Foundation provides education supplies

This is why the H&M Foundation is supporting the UNHCR in their work to help refugee children attend schools in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The Foundation’s investment of 30 million Swedish krona is providing education supplies for refugee children in primary education. The programme reaches 500,000 children at primary and lower-secondary levels (aged 5-14 years). The education supplies enable the refugee children to get the most out of their school experience and, as many of the resources provided will go on to meet the education needs of several more years, the supplies will over time reach many times that number of children.

“H&M Foundation wants to contribute to positive change for refugees, and we do this by supporting UNHCR efforts in many different countries. Without the chance to study, an entire generation is at risk. This is about including everyone, something that is needed now more than ever,” says Diana Amini, Global Manager at H&M Foundation.

About the report

“Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis” calls for more to be done to ensure all refugees get the quality education they deserve. The report urges host countries to enrol refugee children in national systems, with a proper curriculum, all the way through primary and secondary school, to allow for recognized qualifications that can be their springboard to university or higher vocational training. It further notes that countries in developing regions host 92 per cent of the world’s school-age refugees and need more sustained financial support from the international community. Finally, the report calls for stronger partnerships with the private sector, humanitarian and development organizations and governments to increase sustainable solutions for refugee education.



UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. UNHCR deliver life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. They also work to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality.

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