Pope Francis has urged the global community to adopt a shared response to the global refugee situation that may be articulated in four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate. This World Refugee Day, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and Entreculturas are building upon Pope Francis’s words to advocate for refugee education with the campaign 4 Words to Open the World.
In countries such as Lebanon, South Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic, JRS and Entreculturas give concrete expression to these four words in our service to forcibly displaced persons, particularly through educational projects. With programmes ranging from formal to informal education, and early childhood schooling to teacher-training, we provide education that meets the needs and inspires the hope of refugees.
Education plays a critical role in sustaining, and sometimes even saving, lives. In emergencies as well as in protracted situations, where refugees are displaced for long periods of time, entire generations can be lost because of a lack of education.
I really like going to school,” says Ali, a Syrian refugee attending one of our schools in Lebanon. “I don’t want to leave it. My only hope for the future is being able to read and write.”
Schools are safe places where children can bond with their peers, thrive after trauma, and regain a sense of normalcy and stability despite their displacement. Education is a way to monitor and foster their safety and well-being. Attending school protects children from being exposed to risks such as labour and sexual exploitation, military recruitment, and early marriage.
Access to early childhood and primary education is particularly important because this is the foundation for a lifelong learning process. Education is essential for displaced children to develop the tools necessary to fulfil their potential, and contribute to the growth and stability of their communities.
Nevertheless, refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than children in non-refugee situations. Only 61 per cent of refugee children have access to primary school compared to 91 per cent of children around the world. There is an urgent need to increase refugee children’s access to schooling.
With 4 Words to Open the World, JRS and Entreculturas urge state authorities and the global community to increase their efforts to provide access to education for refugee children, so that they may feel welcomed, have their skills and talents promoted, know they are protected, and be prepared to integrate into their host communities.