The number of refugee children worldwide who are unable to attend school is rising, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). In a report titled "Turn the Tide", it said there are currently four million children around the world who go without schooling, nearly 500,000 more than last year. It said girls have a more difficult time gaining access to education and completing their education.
Refugee girls have a 50 percent less chance of enrolling in secondary school than their male counterparts. The report was distributed during an event and performance in Rome called "A refugee girl can't choose, but we can", to launch a campaign called "Mettiamocelo in Testa" (Let's Get It In Our Head).
'Invest in refugee girls' education'
"It's time to concretely invest in refugee girls' education," said Carlotta Sami, UNHCR spokesperson for Southern Europe. "Forced to become adults before their time, deprived of their childhood, forced to give up their hopes and dreams, refugee girls are left no choice. But we can choose to ensure them a quality education and build a dignified future. This is why we are asking everyone to support the UNHCR campaign with an SMS or a call from a land line to 45588. Just two euros is all it takes to guarantee a month of school to a refugee girl," Sami said. The campaign is now in its third edition.
According to data from the Turn the Tide report, only 61 percent of refugee children attend primary school, compared to 92 percent of children worldwide. The divide increases with age: only 23 percent of refugee children attend secondary school, compared to 84 percent of children worldwide. The percentage goes down to 1 percent when speaking of higher education, compared to 37 percent worldwide.
Refugee girls face marginalization
The situation for refugee girls becomes even more "dramatic and alarming" as they grow, the report said. They have to face more marginalization and a gender gap, because refugee boys are given priority in schooling, due to social and cultural norms. In addition, they face difficulties for insufficient structures, such as lack of restrooms or services for their menstrual cycles, and also because the cost of books, school uniforms, and transportation to school can be cost-prohibitive for families.
According to UNESCO figures, if all girls were able to complete primary school, child marriage would decrease by 14 percent, rising to 65 percent if they were able to complete secondary school. Female child and adolescent refugees without access to education are at risk for child marriage, abuse, and exploitation.