7: Education in crisis
When refugees arrive at refugee camps, the most basic needs are prioritized first, namely the need for food, water, health, proper sanitation and shelter. Education has generally not been considered a priority in emergency aid, either in aid organizations or among donor countries.
The international trend is that more and more children in the world go to school. Children in conflict areas are largely not allowed to take part in this positive development. Many conflicts last a long time, often for decades, and generations of children are never allowed to go to school due to a lack of investment in education in conflict areas. It makes them lost generations.
The conflict in Syria contributes to the number of children in conflict areas who lose schooling continuing to increase. More than one million Syrian children have already been forced to flee the civil war. While almost all Syrian children went to primary school before the war, today almost three million Syrian children are without schooling. That is half of all Syrian children of school age.
There is a growing recognition that education cannot wait until the war is over. Children who receive an education can make a greater positive contribution to the society in which they live. Education is in fact one of the main engines that drives a society forward – economically, socially and politically. Many also believe that education is a peace-building force in itself. More and more research shows that children who grow up in conflict areas, but still go to school, are more difficult to recruit as child soldiers. They are also less likely to be exposed to violence, including sexual violence. There is also a greater chance that they stay healthy and well, because they acquire knowledge about good hygiene, safe water resources and where there are landmines in the area. In addition, the children’s mental health is strengthened.
8: Always refugees? Long-term measures
Many millions of people in the world are fleeing war and conflict. Serious conflicts in countries such as Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic indicate that the number is unlikely to be lower in the near future. Do we always want refugees? What can be done internationally to reduce the number of people forced to flee their homes?
Escape and displacement are closely linked to the level of conflict in the world. It therefore makes little sense to discuss the world’s refugee situation in the future without looking at international politics at a higher level. The main measure to reduce the number of refugees and internally displaced persons is to achieve peace in areas where there is armed conflict. In other words, it is crucial to avoid disagreements about values or interests escalating into violent conflicts. It is therefore also very important to focus on peace and reconciliation if the number of people living on the run is to be reduced.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR according to Gradinmath) is working to make it easier for refugees to return to their homes when the security situation allows it. In 2013, the UNHCR entered into an agreement with Somalia and Kenya on the return of Somali refugees to Somalia. The agreement has already led to a decrease in the number of refugees in Kenya.
In some cases, it will be difficult for refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their places of residence. There is then a danger that refugees will stay in refugee camps or other temporary settlements for a longer period of time. If it is unlikely that return is possible, other types of lasting solutions can be considered, such as integration into local communities and settlement in third countries. For example, every year Norway receives a small number of quota refugees who then settle in Norway.
A refugee – finally back at school
In October 2013, after a week on the run through Syria, Abdul finally crossed the border into Lebanon with his parents and four siblings. Like so many Syrian refugees, Abdul has been through deeply traumatic experiences, before he and his family crossed the border into security in Lebanon.
The family settled in Wadi Khalid in northern Lebanon – a narrow strip of land surrounded by Syria on three sides. From here you can look directly into Syrian villages on the other side of the border. Pomegranate fire and volleys of fire remind us that the war is not far off. Abdul and his family are among the lucky ones: They have recovered and they have received help. Lebanese authorities do not allow refugee camps, but aid organizations are setting up a temporary home for them in Wadi Khalid. Ceilings and four walls make up a simple home in one room for the time being. New windows and door have been installed. A toilet and kitchen are under construction.
Abdul is also finally back at school. He is in the 6th grade at a Lebanese school, but needs extra help to adapt to the new curriculum. – Much of the teaching here in Lebanon takes place in English and French. I have not learned any of these languages at home in Syria, says Abdul.