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Access to quality education for all children, especially girls

JRS considers access to education to be both a human right and a means to build peace and development. Education plays a critical role in sustaining the daily lives of many forcibly displaced people. JRS considers education to be one of the four fundamental pillars of humanitarian assistance, along with food, healthcare, and shelter. Like healthcare, education has a preventive dimension and the potential to pay future dividends.

JRS places the highest priority on ensuring a better future for refugees by investing heavily in education and training. Worldwide, JRS provides access to primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational education to approximately 285,000 children, young people and adults each year. We further advocate that all displaced children be provided with access to quality education.

  • JRS position
  • In practice
JRS position

Worldwide JRS provides pre-, primary, secondary and third level education to approximately 285,000 young people. As well as renovating and rebuilding schools, JRS trains teachers and distributes educational materials. Based on this experience of the needs of refugees, JRS also advocates on behalf of displaced children to ensure they are provided with an adequate education.

Education is important in the development of the individual person, as well as for societies, and access to education is a fundamental human right. For refugees and other forcibly displaced persons education plays an essential role in sustaining and saving lives throughout a crisis. It is one of the four fundamental pillars of humanitarian assistance, along with food, healthcare and shelter. Education has a preventive dimension, a future dividend, which stems from its power to support the development of analytical and decision-making skills, and self-esteem and -awareness.

Nevertheless, in many countries around the world migrant and refugee children are still excluded from school by state policies. This is even true in a number of European states with regard to the children of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. In most of these countries there is a gap between legal provisions on the one hand and reality on the other. In other countries, forcibly displaced children and adolescents may have access to some form of education, e.g. within refugee camps, but too often schools are poorly furnished and teachers inadequately paid and trained.


To governments of host countries:

  • Ensure access to elementary education, (comprising primary education as well as the first years of what usually is referred to as secondary education) for all children and adolescents irrespective of origin and status.
  • Consider giving access to further education (including university) under the same conditions as host nationals, in particular for recognised refugees and other long-term displaced persons.
  • Resist traditions or practices which inhibit girls or children with disabilities from accessing primary and secondary education.
  • Pay special attention to the proper training and payment of teachers and an adequate supply of schools.

To parties in armed conflict:

  • Desist from targeting unarmed civilian populations, ensure schools and other education facilities remain safe places, and take concrete measures to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in schools.

To donors and other actors in the area of international cooperation:

  • Pay particular attention to the education needs of forcibly displaced children and adolescents when shaping and developing assistance programmes and projects.
  • Ensure host societies benefit from education facilities to avoid the development of negative sentiments against displaced populations.
In practice

Obstacles to quality education include: wrongful government policies that deny access to good schools, the lack of documentation, or other situations such as the issue witnessed by JRS in Chad, where refugee teachers find that their qualifications are not recognised by the government, and only receive salaries on an irregular basis.

In Southern Sudan, JRS advocacy efforts place special emphasis on empowering girls to access primary and secondary education as a basic minimum right. In many Southern Sudanese communities, where the early marriage of girls is a widely accepted cultural practice, JRS has worked successfully with families to encourage them to enrol and to keep their girls in primary and secondary school.

JRS Malawi provides quality education to primary and secondary school students in Dzaleka refugee camp. Having achieved a 2010 pass rate that was higher than that of the surrounding local government schools, JRS Malawi enlarged their secondary school facilities, hoping to provide education for more students in 2011. JRS Malawi is also encouraging community integration by providing places in their school for local Malawian children as well as refugees.

In Addis Ababa, JRS operates a refugee community centre, which serves as a place where children can freely express themselves through play, song, dance and basic education. Older children and adults can also access supplementary education through computer classes and free internet facilities that connect them to the outside world. In July 2010, eight refugees from Southern Sudan graduated with high honours from the Addis Ababa University. They expressed their gratitude to JRS for its support, saying: "The war took away our homes, but with the education we received, we feel challenged to return to our homeland and rebuild our country."

JRS Indonesia promotes Living Values Education among teachers, school directors and the department of education in formerly conflict-displaced communities in South Aceh. The aim is to improve the quality of education of children at risk by using a practical methodology and activities based on experiential values. Educators are asked to think about their values, to use their creativity to incorporate values into their curriculum in a practical way, and to create a values-based atmosphere. This work includes activities about peace, reconciliation, love, cooperation, happiness, honesty, humility, responsibility, simplicity, tolerance, freedom and unity.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) Basic rights for the most vulnerable In recent years, the number of IDPs increased significantly, reaching an estimated total of 26 million worldwide in 2012. JRS works with IDPs in South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Chad, Central African Republic, Colombia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste, providing education, psychosocial support, peace building, pastoral accompaniment, training in modern agricultural techniques, and mediation in land disputes and other areas of conflict. Through its presence in IDP camps, JRS aims to guarantee access to food, shelter, medical aid and education, with special attention paid to the basic needs of the most vulnerable. We also train community leaders to advocate for IDP needs in order to ensure their safety in places of return.

JRS Zimbabwe focuses on keeping internally displaced children in school by offering assistance with the costs and supplies associated with education, such as uniforms and books. A 13-year-old beneficiary, Peter Sibekwazi (pseudonym), says: “Without you I would have dropped out of school.”

In North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), JRS is present in IDP settlements, accompanying and providing services to the most vulnerable. Through adult literacy and non-formal education programmes, we aim to develop the skills, such as tailoring and basket-making, of the most marginalised people. JRS also provides education support to local schools near the camps.

Based on direct testimonies, JRS USA published a document that raised the profile of the needs of Colombian IDPs, illustrating the need for placing more emphasis on humanitarian funding in Colombia and taking money out of the military budget support. As a result of coalition advocacy in which JRS USA engaged, the US decreased the amount of funding it gave to the Colombian military by nearly 30%, increasing the funding to humanitarian efforts by 25%.

Internationally, JRS advocates have been active in promoting a more vigorous global response to emergencies that result in internal displacement, through monitoring the 'cluster approach' to assistance for IDPs, and by supporting UNHCR engagement in this crucial area.