AU Peace and Security Council: A Call for Improved Quality Education for All Refugee Children African Union on August 9, 2016

On August 9th, 2016 the African Union’s Peace and Security Council held an open session regarding the education of refugees and displaced children in Africa. The success and effectiveness of this open session was due to the initiative and leadership of the Ambassador of the Republic of Congo to Ethiopia and the African Union, H.E. Lazare Makayat Safouesse.

Many international organizations and member states of the Peace and Security Council were in attendance. The meeting began with a video produced by Save the Children about the current status of refugee children’s lives and education in Africa. Then, the group heard from two young refugee children, who expressed the importance of their education and provided recommendations for how to improve educational situations from refugee children. These recommendations included providing adequate learning materials and better, more immediate access to education for refugee children so they do not fall behind in their studies. 

Representatives from the following organizations and countries made statements in support of refugee children’s education:  Save the Children, UNESCO-IICBA, UNESCO-LO, the Red Cross, UNICEF, UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, the All African Conference of Churches, UNFPA, the European Union, the United States Embassy, and representatives from the PSC member states of Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Chad, Liberia, and Uganda.  The themes of their statements were two-fold; first, each one expressed their continued commitment to efforts for providing and improving the education of refugee children, and second, was the urgent need to look beyond frameworks and policies to action steps to create real change.

Dr. Yumiko Yokozeki, Director of UNESCO-IICBA, was among those who spoke. In her statement, she emphasized the quality, inclusiveness and gender aspects of education for the refugee children.  She explained that education provides opportunities for us to learn to live together and that schools should demonstrate inclusiveness, providing a focus on students with special needs and the empowerment of girls within education.  Additionally, she called for a continued commitment to supporting and empowering teachers. We can only achieve quality education through the development and support of teachers. 

At the end of the open session, the chairperson called for a continued commitment on the part of all organizations to advocate for refugee children’s education. Additionally, going forward, there is an imperative need to take action, ensuring that appropriate recommendations are actually carried out. Some of these recommendations include ensuring that schools are protected in conflict areas, reinforcing national education management systems so as to include refugee children in mainstream education, increasing funding for refugee education, and ensuring that all education systems are non-discriminatory and accessible to all.  

Many individuals also mentioned the upcoming High-Level Meeting to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, which will be held in New York on September 19, 2016, noting that the themes and recommendations from the today’s session should be brought up at this meeting as well. Today’s meeting was only the beginning of a long-term commitment to addressing the needs of refugee children and their educational opportunities.