National Conference on "The Right to Education of Afghan Refugee Children in Pakistan"

Educated Refugees are 3 times more likely to repatriate to their home countries, "UNESCO and UNHCR stress the need to educate Afghan Refugee Children for Peace and Security".
Islamabad, 29 March 2012 - Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees for three decades now, with currently some 1.7 million registered Afghans living in urban and rural areas of Pakistan, including women and children. Pakistan is among the top countries in the world hosting such large refugee population. To meet the basic needs, Pakistan has been facilitating provision of education services to some Afghan refugees for years. Regardless of efforts, illiteracy rate is very high among Afghan refugee children.

United Nation's Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in co-operation with United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR in lieu with signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) organized a National Conference to raise awareness and highlight issues to promote the "Right to education of Afghan refugee children in Pakistan", here in Islamabad, today. The aim of the conference was to raise awareness and highlight concerns to encourage stakeholders to achieve the "Education For All (EFA) goals by including Afghan Refugee children through policy and capacity reform especially in refugee hosting areas, such as FATA, KP and Baluchistan".

The Country Representative of UNESCO Dr. Kozue Kay Nagata thanked UNHCR for the collaboration, in her opening remarks she said, "We have an objective to assure that education is accessible especially to the marginalized. We are geared to set up foundation for the future joint interventions with a common interest of ensuring education reaches afghan refugee children as we believe all children have right to education and there is no doubt about it".

Stressing on the need to educate the societies without discriminating them due to their status she urged the stakeholders saying, "Lets be practical, we need to face it without being superficial but it is a highly sensitive issue, which cant be solved unless we consider the fundamental issue of tackling the education for all in a particle manner specially by including the marginalized groups like refugees in policy reform".

Addressing the participants, the Country Director, UNHCR Neil Wright elaborated the situation of the education among Afghan Refugees living in Pakistan. Mr. Wright said "The quality of the education including quality of the facilities and quality of teachers among refugees show clearly that there is a long way to go. 1.74 million Afghan refugees are still living in country, hosted generously by Government, and 3.7 million has gone back in last 10 years. Out of this refugee population 50 % are on the age of 14 whereas 70% are on the age of 18. Only 55,000 (5%) of the 1.74 million PoR card holders have completed primary education, there is only 20 % enrollment in primary school amongst school-aged Afghan refugee children".

Mr. Wright added while concluding, "Vast majority of these children were born in Pakistan and they feel that this is their country when I talk to them no matter how much they consider to be afghan refugees they consider Pakistan as their country".

The seminar was attended by eminent educationists from provincial education ministries, as well as civil society NGOs working for the rights and education of Afghan refugees.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Gwong-Jo Kim, Director, UNESCO Bangkok, who stressed on different aspects of Education for All, and indicated that one of the reasons for low implementation rate to meet EFA goals is the challenges for the marginalized groups which include refugees. He said, "It's just not for the individual but for society; in my personal view education is a personal and social insurance, meaning if you educate young kids regardless of their background you have less to pay for their social security". He further added, "It's not a favor to these refugee kids it's just for all of us, because if we educate them we have to pay less taxes to pay, less to spend of social security and peace and harmony. There is no peace or security without education".

In Pakistan 200,000 children in privately managed schools study and follow Afghan curriculum.

 Story on the conference "The right to education of Afghan refugee children in Pakistan"

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