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Raise your pencil for Refugees and right to education: our commitment as higher education practitioners

“The reality of the education sector in Syria puts the fate of the new Syrian generation at a serious risk, and can have major consequences on their well-being, livelihoods, and future”. With these words, Nasser Yassin and Rawya Khodor in their last book 101 Facts & Figures on the Syrian Refugee Crisis Volume II, showed the readers the dramatic situation of the education sector inside Syria. The crisis of the education (from basic to higher level) is related to several causes all of them highly interrelated one to each other. There is a huge shortage in teachers availability (since the beginning of the crisis, over 150,000 teachers have left their positions), in teaching quality (knowledge and skills to handle children who have missed out on education and are in need of psychosocial support and risk awareness), in term of access to education in Neighborhood countries (39% of school-age Syrian refugee children in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt remained out of formal and non-formal education). In March 2018, UNICEF Yemen stated that “nearly half a million children have dropped out of school since the 2015 escalation of conflict in Yemen, bringing the total number of out-of-school children to 2 million”. Interestingly UNICEF also investigated the fate of these out-of-school children with astonishing findings. If not in school, youth are recruited by armed militias, exposed to early marriages, out of social protection.

Someone can probably consider that this is not the business of Higher Education, but when we ask ourselves why only 1% of refugees is having access to Higher Education worldwide, the answer is in these numbers.

The answer is in the tremendously high level of dropout at basic and secondary education levels, in the level of violence these pupils face with, in the low quality of education provided, in the total lack of reliable communication channels to inform them about available opportunities. As UNIMED, together with our members in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq (KRG) we tried to mitigate this last issue by creating local R-SOS offices in 8 Universities in order to provide reliable information and orientate students toward available opportunities and ongoing scholarship programs. But this is not enough, because the problem is one step back.

For all these reasons, we invite UNIMED members to adhere to the #RaiseYourPencil campaign and to work with us for:

  • Enhancing the quality of basic education through higher education training programs for teachers;
  • Enhancing the quality of secondary education through higher education training programs for teachers;
  • Open their doors in order to host and/or deliver formal and non-formal education courses accessible to the whole society for the benefit of the whole society;
  • Invest in new programs for teaching quality in cooperation with local Ministries of Education and Higher Education;
  • Improve their social responsibility and cooperate for avoiding the risk of lost generations;
  • Enhance the cooperation with NGOs and local/national/international organization without fragmenting efforts towards deprived communities.

We have to raise our pencil for Education in emergencies (EiE), for supporting the European Commission in this effort. We have to do our part of the job as higher education practitioners and do not consider ourselves as out the scheme. We are in and we have to do our part.

Have a look at the video campaign here!

The #RaiseYourPencil campaign was launched by the European Commission on May 2019, to raise awareness about the need to guarantee access to education for all crisis-affected girls and boys worldwide, and to encourage young Europeans to express solidarity with their peers around the world who cannot go to school because of emergencies. The campaign will run until September 2019.