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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.

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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

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

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

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

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