Angelina Jolie and UK call for support to protect education for refugee children

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets some of the children and siblings of young vulnerable women refugees, in the nursery of the RefuSHE project in Nairobi. ; Most of the young refugee girls in the RefuSHE project come from Somalia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi, and many have experienced exploitation and abuse. To mark World Refugee Day on 20 June 2017, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie spent time with the refugee girls who showed her how they dye fabrics. In the fashion show that followed, the girls were featured wearing their own designs. This was Angelina Jolie’s third visit to Kenya, home to nearly 491,000 refugees from neighbouring countries.

Angelina Jolie will join Baroness Sugg, the UK’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, to ensure refugee children are not forgotten in the global coronavirus recovery, at a high-level virtual event on refugee education today.

Baroness Sugg will announce £5.3 million of new UK aid to support the salaries of more than 5,500 teachers in 10 of the world’s poorest refugee-hosting countries, including Chad, South Sudan and Yemen.

She will urge the international community to protect the futures of the world’s most vulnerable children both during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, is expected to say:

“For millions of children and youth, schools are a lifeline of opportunity as well as a shield. Classrooms offer protection — or at least a reprieve — from violence, exploitation and other difficult circumstances.”

“Without urgent practical assistance, some of the children left without schooling worldwide due to the coronavirus may never set foot in a classroom again. We must find ways to try to ensure access to continuity of education for young people across the world.

“Ensuring education for refugee children is something we can make happen, if we all come together.”

Ensuring that children are not affected long-term by the interruption to their education during coronavirus is a priority in the UK and around the world. As the pandemic puts developing countries under increasing economic stress and limited resources are diverted to the health sector, there is a risk children will go uneducated as teachers go unpaid.

Without action, millions of children may be left without a school to attend in the aftermath of coronavirus, potentially undermining education systems in fragile and developing countries for a generation.

Baroness Sugg, the UK Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, will say:

“Education must be prioritised in the global recovery from coronavirus. This epidemic is not just a health crisis, it is an education crisis, especially for refugee children. Without school and an education they will be unable to rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential.

“Supporting every child’s right to 12 years of quality education is one of the best investments the UK can make to end the cycle of displacement, poverty and conflict, as we recover from coronavirus. We urge our partners to match our ambition.”

The UK support announced today will help at least 300,000 vulnerable refugee children to continue their education.

In addition to today’s announcement, the UK has previously announced £15 million of crisis funding from the aid budget to UNICEF and £5 million to Education Cannot Wait, for handwashing supplies, remote lessons and protection services to support the world’s most vulnerable children during the pandemic.

Bahati Ernestine Hategekimana, a Rwandan-born refugee living in Kenya and currently studying to be a nurse on a UNHCR scholarship, will say at today’s roundtable:

“I am part of the 3% of refugee youth who have access to tertiary education. As a refugee, I needed a skill that would give me control and would put me in a position to be useful and helpful in case there is need, whether it be another war or a pandemic like we have now.

“I see a lot of refugee youth like myself who have been empowered through education to contribute to the response on COVID-19.”

Before coronavirus, 260 million children were out of school worldwide. Now, 1.5 billion children in over 150 countries are out of school.

For every additional year a child goes to school, their future earnings can increase by 20%. Unleashing that potential, by protecting education through the crisis, will be essential to preventing the collapse of economies in the poorest countries deepening a global recession, making it harder for all of us to bounce back.

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