Mass displacement, the violence that creates it, the suffering that results from it – it’s everywhere on the news! Right? Sometimes the problem just seems so large. Where in the world would we even begin to help? While solving the root causes of mass displacement may be far beyond our reach, we are confident that ordinary people can have a deep and lasting impact on displaced people and greatly improve the circumstances of their displacement . Here at HOPE + FUTURE, we are committed to seeing displaced people thrive, not just survive. Our initiatives aim to empower displaced people to move beyond the ongoing cycle of dependency, to self-sufficiency, autonomy, and agency.
How do we do this? Education.
Education is one of the greatest tools used to equip displaced people to make decisions about the trajectory of their life. Simply put, education positions displaced people to thrive. Unfortunately, amidst long-term displacement, one of the first things to disappear is a child’s access to education. In fact, one half of all refugee children of primary school age are not in school and three fourths of all refugee children of secondary school age are not in school.
Melissa Fleming, Head of Communications for UNHCR, the UN agency tasked with assisting refugees, says that majority of refugee children tell them that the most important thing to them is their education. “Why? Because it allows them to think of their future rather than the nightmare of their past. It allows them to think of hope, rather than hatred,” says Fleming. Similarly, David Milliband, Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee, says that one of the three solutions identified for long term displacement is prioritizing children’s education. If these statements are true (as we believe they are), what is being done to ensure that displaced children have access to education?
Today, most agencies tasked with the care and protection of displaced populations are struggling under the weight of mass displacement and shrinking funds. Therefore, their primary focus is on meeting immediate needs. “Funds are prioritized for the basics in life: tents and blankets and mattresses and kitchen sets, food rations and a bit of medicine,” says Fleming. In a world where funds are finite and the number of displaced people is growing at an exponential rate, providing education for displaced children is seen as a “luxury” that cannot be afforded.
We see things differently. Education is not a luxury; it is a life line for displaced children. Education brings children hope of a future that is brighter than their past. Education gives children permission to dream of what they could (and will) become. Education empowers children to know their worth and their ability to make a positive impact on their country and on the world. Education ensures children opportunities. Education provides children stability when everything else in their life is in chaos. In short, education means everything for a displaced child.
This is why we focus on education. Despite it being the number one concern for the majority of displaced children and one of the top three identified solutions to long term displacement, millions of displaced children still do not have meaningful access to education. We are grateful for our many sponsors who are working to change that. They believe that all children deserve to learn, to hope, and to dream. We thank you for all that you do to make education possible for displaced Syrian and Iraqi children here in Iraq. Their future is bright because of generous people like YOU!