Education is a basic right that restores hope and dignity in children driven from their homes. It is also an indispensable tool for integration, which empowers people to participate fully in their community and its political, economic, social, and cultural life.
It is UNHCR’s policy that every child have the right to a quality education. To further this goal, the Education Strategy of UNHCR stresses the importance of giving children who are refugees or asylum-seekers full access to educational opportunities.
But in Central Europe many of these children face difficulties in obtaining this right.
In some places in the region, these children are unable to find spots in schools near the reception and accommodation facilities where they are living. Quite often the reasons are the discriminatory attitudes of school management and teachers.
These children face other obstacles. If unable to provide evidence of past educational achievements, they are placed in grades lower than their educational levels. Many schools do not have teachers qualified to address the unique needs of these students, and lack the specialized resources necessary to help refugee children integrate into school activities or embrace diversity within the curriculum. Where local language courses exist, they are not always sufficient to enable young people to acquire the skills necessary to receive a mainstream education. As a result, these children sometimes drop out of school, forfeiting any chance for educational and personal advancement.
Over the years, the seven countries under UNHCR Central Europe have shown improvement in providing young refugees with access to education. But serious problems remain.
To address these problems, UNHCR has launched a project, which identifies both the positive and negative aspects of educational support across the region. Also, as part of the project, a regional conference has been organized on the issue that drafts policy guidelines for national authorities and stakeholders on improving the educational opportunities for young refugees.
UNHCR urges each country in the region to create policy and practices, which will give these children greater access to formal and non-formal education of an adequate quality, and will eradicate discriminatory and xenophobic practices in its school system.