UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Muzoon Almellehan speaks at the side event to the Global Compact meeting Photo: UNHCR/Susan Hopper
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Muzoon Almellehan speaks at the side event to the Global Compact meeting Photo: UNHCR/Susan Hopper

A young Syrian activist has called on governments to put education for refugees at the top of their agenda. The activist, Muzoon Almellehan, was addressing officials and international organizations meeting in Geneva to discuss the United Nations Global Compact on Refugees.

The education of refugees ''is the greatest weapon that can help us fight for our rights and realize our dreams'', said young Syrian activist and refugee Muzoon Almellehan, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

Addressing an event on the sidelines of a meeting on the Global Compact called ''Let them learn: access to education for refugee children'' at the UN in Geneva, she said education should come first.

Participants discussed strategies to improve access to high-quality education as part of the new global pact on refugees.

Fleeing Syria with textbooks

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said that when Muzoon fled her home in Dara'a, Syria, five years ago, she didn't know whether she would be able to go to school at a refugee camp in Jordan. So the teen, who was 15 at the time, took her school books with her. "I was very worried about my education," she told the meeting attended by government officials, activists and international organizations in Geneva.

Muzoon recalled the relief she felt when she learned she would be able to go to school at the Za'atari refugee camp, where she soon became an impassioned activist who encouraged other children to attend school. ''When I learned that I could go to school at the camp, that moment changed my life. It gave me hope and made me stronger. It made turned me into the person I am today'', said the 20-year-old, who has moved to the United Kingdom with her family and has become UNICEF's youngest goodwill ambassador.

An appeal to governments worldwide

Muzoon urged governments involved in formal consultations on the Global Compact on refugees to place education at the top of their agenda. The UNHCR said the pact aims to change the international community's strategies in responding to the refugee crisis, in particular finding ways to integrate refugees in hosting communities and providing communities with more support. ''I will not be completely happy until I see that each child in the world has access to high-quality education. I am fighting for every child, not just refugees, for every child in the world,'' Muzoon stressed.

Only 61% of refugee children attend school worldwide, compared with a global average of 91%, according to a study by the UNHCR. The UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Yurk, stressed that high-quality education is ''everything''. ''It helps protect refugee children, giving them hope in their future and promoting social cohesion.''

 

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