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UNHCR and Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in programme to educate 172,000 refugee children

Press Releases, 16 November 2012

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Wednesday announced a joint programme with Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar to provide quality education for 172,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced children in 12 countries.

"My dream is to make sure that every refugee child has access to quality education so they have a chance to build a positive future for themselves and their communities," said Guterres, who was speaking at the launch of the Global Initiative on Educate a Child, part of the World Innovation Summit on Education, in the Qatari capital, Doha.

"Sheikha Moza's Educate a Child initiative helps bring that dream closer to reality by providing quality education to tens of thousands of refugee children around the world," he added.

Sheikha Moza's Educate a Child initiative is partnering with global organisations, including UNHCR, to bring quality education to children affected by extreme poverty, conflict and displacement.

"Right across the world, because of disaster, because of poverty, children are being denied a chance to change their destinies. We can change this, and because we can, we must," Sheikha Moza said in a speech.

Last month Sheikha Moza travelled to Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya, where she met refugee children from Somalia and Sudan who will benefit from improved schooling as part of this initiative.

Sheikha Mozza invited Suad Mohammed, a Somali refugee and headmistress of one of the schools in the camp, to the summit. Suad spoke to the audience of over 1000 participants about the difference that education in the Kakuma refugee camp had made for her. She told the audience that she is now the headmistress of the school that educated her in the camp.

Supermodel Alek Wek, who is a former Sudanese refugee and a supporter of UNHCR, was a keynote speaker at the conference. During her speech she noted that children from South Sudan, will benefit from education under this initiative. Wek highlighted the importance of her own education, "If it wasn't for my education I could have been a one-hit wonder, but instead I have had a long career as a fashion model."

In 2012, the partnership between the Office of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and UNHCR on Educate a Child is committing $12.5 million to educate 172,000 displaced and refugee children in Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Malaysia and Pakistan. This is the first stage of a five-year programme and broadened partnership which will provide refugee children with new schools, better trained teachers and education supplies, while other activities and initiatives will support continued quality education and learning.




Alek Wek Biography

Biography of the British Supermodel

Alek Wek and UNHCR

Learn about Alek Wek's links with UNHCR.

Chad: Education in Exile

UNHCR joins forces with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to improve education for Sudanese refugees in Chad.

The ongoing violence in Sudan's western Darfur region has uprooted two million Sudanese inside the country and driven some 230,000 more over the border into 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Although enrolment in the camp schools in Chad is high, attendance is inconsistent. A shortage of qualified teachers and lack of school supplies and furniture make it difficult to keep schools running. In addition, many children are overwhelmed by household chores, while others leave school to work for local Chadian families. Girls' attendance is less regular, especially after marriage, which usually occurs by the age of 12 or 13. For boys and young men, attending school decreases the possibility of recruitment by various armed groups operating in the area.

UNHCR and its partners continue to provide training and salaries for teachers in all 12 refugee camps, ensuring a quality education for refugee children. NGO partners maintain schools and supply uniforms to needy students. And UNICEF is providing books, note pads and stationary. In August 2007 UNHCR, UNICEF and Chad's Ministry of Education joined forces to access and improve the state of education for Sudanese uprooted by conflict in Darfur.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Chad: Education in Exile

Education for Displaced Colombians

UNHCR works with the government of Colombia to address the needs of children displaced by violence.

Two million people are listed on Colombia's National Register for Displaced People. About half of them are under the age of 18, and, according to the Ministry of Education, only half of these are enrolled in school.

Even before displacement, Colombian children attending school in high-risk areas face danger from land mines, attacks by armed groups and forced recruitment outside of schools. Once displaced, children often lose an entire academic year. In addition, the trauma of losing one's home and witnessing extreme violence often remain unaddressed, affecting the child's potential to learn. Increased poverty brought on by displacement usually means that children must work to help support the family, making school impossible.

UNHCR supports the government's response to the educational crisis of displaced children, which includes local interventions in high-risk areas, rebuilding damaged schools, providing school supplies and supporting local teachers' organizations. UNHCR consults with the Ministry of Education to ensure the needs of displaced children are known and planned for. It also focuses on the educational needs of ethnic minorities such as the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Education for Displaced Colombians

Kigeme: A home carved from the hills for Congolese refugees

The Kigeme refugee camp in Rwanda's Southern province was reopened in June 2012 after thousands of Congolese civilians started fleeing across the border when fighting erupted in late April between Democratic Republic of the Congo government forces and fighters of the rebel M23 movement. Built on terraced hills, it currently houses more than 14,000 refugees but was not significantly affected by the latest fighting in eastern Congo, which saw the M23 capture the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma, before withdrawing. While many of the adults long for lasting peace in their home region, the younger refugees are determined to resume their education. Hundreds enrolled in special classes to help them prepare for the Rwandan curriculum in local primary and secondary schools, including learning different languages. In a camp where more than 60 per cent of the population are aged under 18 years, the catch-up classes help traumatized children to move forward, learn and make friends.

Kigeme: A home carved from the hills for Congolese refugees

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Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat campPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat camp

Concluding a visit to Iraq, UNHCR chief António Guterres met with Syrian refugees in Arbat camp in the Kurdistan region. Guterres noted the recent proliferation of humanitarian crises, but urged the international community not to forget about Syria, "the mega protracted crisis of our times."