Racing driver Sir Lewis Hamilton, seven-time Formula 1 world champion, is backing a fresh call from the UN on Tuesday for all refugee children and youth to be given access to a full quality education. He’s one driving force behind the release of a new report from UN refugee agency, UNHCR, revealing the urgent need for more international support for refugee students.
In the report, All Inclusive: The Campaign for Refugee Education, data compiled from more than 40 countries highlights a disturbing disparity in the quality of education provided to refugees compared to that provided for non-refugees.
Secondary school drop
According to the report, average enrolment rates for refugee children in primary schools in the 2020-2021 academic year, were broadly stable at 68 per cent. But enrolment drops sharply to 37 percent at secondary level, which refugee learners have historically struggled to access.
There was, however, better news at the tertiary level, for universities and colleges. Refugee enrolment increased by 5 per cent in the last few years – giving UNHCR grounds for optimism that its tertiary enrolment target of 15 percent by 2030, could be met.
UNHCR’s annual education report has been published just as world leaders prepare to debate the future of learning at the Transforming Education Summit at the UN General Assembly on 16-19 September.
Fighting ‘systemic injustice’: F1 star
Sir Lewis, who campaigns for greater equality, fairness and diversity in education, as well as in motorsport, said he was “proud to lend my voice” to the campaign for refugee children and youth to be included in national education systems.
Education doesn’t just widen people’s horizons and present them with opportunities they would otherwise never dream of getting. It counteracts the damaging effects of systemic injustice. Sir Lewis Hamilton
He said in the report: “Education doesn’t just widen people’s horizons and present them with opportunities they would otherwise never dream of getting. It counteracts the damaging effects of systemic injustice.”
“It’s not just about creating better life chances for young people, helping them to find their purpose and forge their own futures. It’s about the knock-on effects of that: greater diversity in positions of leadership and influence, in the world of work, in sport, culture, politics.
The ‘All Inclusive’ campaign tells the stories of young refugees from Sudan, Ukraine, Kenya and Myanmar as they pursue education despite disruptions, forced displacement and the overall challenges of adapting to new circumstances.
Also writing in the report, Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, noted that many countries had recently made great progress towards including refugee learners in formal national education systems.
Close the ‘yawning gap’
In the report, Mr. Grandi argued that “the saying, ‘talent is universal, but opportunity is not’, describes the reality for millions of refugee children. We need to close the yawning gap between talent and opportunity.”
UNHCR is calling for the inclusion of refugees in national education systems from the start of humanitarian emergencies, protracted displacement situations and in longer-term development planning.
Among other things, this requires more support for teacher training and salaries, new infrastructure, adequate and relevant learning materials, safe transport to and from schools, access to examinations and certification, and closing the digital divide affecting refugees.
“Education is an investment in development, human rights and peace”, Mr. Grandi said. “Now is the time to invest in human futures – in budding builders, creators and peacemakers.”
He added: “In the case of refugees, it is an investment in the people who will rebuild their countries when they can safely return home.”