Education is not something that is solely valued by teachers; the refugee children themselves not only grieve their loss of education, but also grasp the significance of what they have lost.
Below are stories of children who are all currently out of school, innocently caught in the crossfire of conflict, waiting indefinitely in a liminal space… waiting for the normalcy of school life to return. Most are located in refugee camps. Some, like Edo, are working to support their families. Others, like Khalida, play with sticks in desolate camps and pretend the twigs are pencils. Still others are confined to extremely overcrowded living quarters in impoverished cities. None of them want to be out of school. All of them want to continue their education… and learn.
In their own words:
These children’s sentiments are echoed in the international legal obligations for the right to education:
“Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits.” ~ UNESCO
“Education is a powerful tool by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully as citizens.” ~ UNESCO
The exact price of losing access to education is undetermined, although the trends are evident:
“It is impossible to calculate the immense costs that are incurred by depriving refugees of education. A refugee who goes without education cannot look forward to a more productive and prosperous future. A refugee who is unable to attend school or a vocational training course is more likely to become frustrated and involved in illegitimate or military activities. A refugee who remains illiterate and inarticulate will be at a serious disadvantage in defending his or her human rights.” (UNHCR, 2001, p. iii)
“Education provides a vehicle for rebuilding refugee children’s lives, through social interaction and gaining knowledge and skills for their future lives. For some, the alternative is depression and idleness, and for others, a range of anti-social activities and the thought of revenge through a renewal of armed conflict. (UNHCR, 2001, p. vii)
But below are perhaps the most sobering words of all:
The challenge is for educators, world-wide, is to rally and answer the call.