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Child refugees in Greece out of school for one and a half years

23rd May 2016


Child refugees stranded in Greece have been out of school for an average of one and a half years, risking a generation which has been denied the right to an education, according to Save the Children.

As the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit gets underway today (23rd May) in Istanbul with a focus on refugee education, a new study by the agency found that although more than three quarters of school-aged refugee children interviewed in Greece said that going to school was one of their top priorities, more than one in five of them have never even begun their education.

The study found that Syrian child refugees have been out of school for an average of 25.8 months, while Afghan child refugees spend an average of 10.7 months out of the classroom.

“Of the 7.3 million child refugees in the world today, half don’t have access to education, and the international community will struggle for decades to reverse the effects of this lack of investment, which is why we are demanding that no refugee child is out of education for more than a month,”saidHelleThorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International.

“Children who have risked everything to reach Europe are now wasting the best years of their lives, in refugee camps, in detention centres, and behind border fences and walls. Many know nothing more than conflict, violence, forced displacement, and their current deplorable conditions which offer little hope for their futures.”

UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, alongside Save the Children, UNICEF, the Lebanese Minister for Education and others, will unveil a new fund for schooling in emergencies called Education Cannot Wait later today.

“If donors commit the funds needed, it’s hoped it will generate the shared political, operational and financial commitments needed to scale up the much-needed delivery of education in emergencies and protracted crises,” explained Thorning-Schmidt.

“We believe that the Education Cannot Wait fund can help provide the catalytic shift to ensure every last refugee child is in education. Getting this right will have a profound impact on the lives of millions of children, securing not only their right to education but also having a transformational impact on their communities and building the foundations for peace and prosperity.”

Once displaced for six months a refugee is likely to remain displaced for at least three years, with the average length of displacement now estimated at 17 years – almost an entire childhood.

“Given the length of time children and their families are likely to be displaced it’s essential that they gain access to quality basic services, including education, as soon as possible,” said Thorning-Schmidt.

“The EU needs to recognise education as a key need for children stranded in Greece and the Balkans and provide more support to the governments to set up temporary learning facilities in the camps and long-term education solutions.”

Save the Children has been providing non-formal lessons – including English and Greek classes – through its child friendly spaces for refugees in Greece.

The agency is currently scaling up its education activities in Greece to provide child refugees with access to basic education through temporary classrooms.

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For further information or to arrange interviews with Helle Thorning-Schmidt at The World Humanitarian Summit please contact Caroline Anning in Istanbul at c.anning@savethechildren.org.uk or call +44 7785 527663

Notes to editors:

* Save the Children conducted the survey in northern Greece, the Attica region (Athens), and in Lesvos. 155 refugees were interviewed, including 85 parents/caregivers, 52 children, and 18 refugee teachers. Information about 130 children’s (74 girls and 56 boys) education status was collected as part of the assessment – 67 from Syria, 54 from Afghanistan and nine from Iraq. Children’s ages ranged from 6 to 17 years old.

* 100% of the children surveyed were out of school. The time since they last attended school ranged from one month to seven years. The average was 18.2 months.

* Afghans have been out of school for an average of 10.7 months, while Syrians have been out of school for an average of 25.8 months.

* Ninety-nine percent of children and parents surveyed said war and displacement were the main barriers to accessing education. In Syria, for example, one in five schools have been damaged, destroyed or occupied. Around 2.8 million Syrian children are currently out of school.

* Refugees and migrants from Afghanistan make up 25 per cent of Mediterranean seaarrivals in Greece, with 49 per cent coming from Syria.