A Chance to Learn

An Afghan girl dreams of becoming a doctor. A Malian boy hopes to be a religious scholar. But only one has access to a formal education.

A young Tuareg refugee from Mali herds animals in Niger.
© UNHCR/Leslie Knott

Samia and Tomasa are close in age, but their prospects in life are decidedly different.

Samia is a 10-year-old Afghan girl living in Karachi, Pakistan. After several years at a Koranic school there, she recently switched to a more formal school set up for Afghan refugees. While one of her sisters was married at an early age, Samia is intent on becoming a doctor. She sees that education will play an important role in her future, and family's as well. "I want to become educated," she says. "I have so many dreams."

Tomasa is an eight-year-old boy from Mali who is continuing the traditional Tuareg way of life passed down from his parents – even now that they are refugees in Niger. Like his siblings, Tomasa receives an informal religious education through his father. "I learn everything from him," he says. "I don't want to go to a modern school." Yet Tomasa is missing out on a basic education in subjects that could improve his family's health and livelihood.

Worldwide, over 1 million refugee children are out of school. UNHCR, in partnership with Educate A Child, has managed to enrol an additional 266,000 young refugees in school in 12 countries since 2012. These gains in enrolment and retention stem from a recognition that out-of-school children and their families face a range of challenges that must be addressed holistically through simultaneous improvements in health, nutrition, livelihoods and protection.

For children like Samia and Tomasa, overcoming these challenges could make a world of difference.