International (MNN) — The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released a report yesterday revealing that out of 6 million school-aged refugee kids, 3.7 million don’t have access to school. That’s a population roughly the size of Los Angeles, California.
Of those out of school, around 1.95 million refugee teens are not in secondary school and 1.75 million refugee children aren’t in primary school.
The report titled “Missing Out: Refugee Education in Crisis” compares UNESCO data on global school enrollment with the UNHCR’s numbers on education among refugee children.
Basically, 50 percent of an entire generation in the refugee demographic is growing up without an education. They don’t even have the means. In contrast, just over 90 percent of the world’s school-aged children has access to education.
The UNHCR’s report was released just ahead of the UN General Assembly’s Summit for Refugees and Migrants and the Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis, scheduled for September 19-20.
Harold Klassen with TeachBeyond says while education is always vitally important, it is especially critical for those seeking asylum.
“If you are moving to a new country and a new culture and can’t speak the language, you’re unable to really become part of that culture. You’ll feel like an outsider and have very little to contribute where you are, and you’ll feel uncomfortable there. So for adults and children it’s really important that they learn the local language.”
Klassen continues, “Also, to be able to contribute in where you are, it’s important to have skills that you can use there, and many of the refugees have already developed skills, but others are coming with very minimal education. So they need to have the kinds of skills that can be useful where they’re going, and that will involve both adult and child education.”
When kids and teens are idling out of school, it leaves them particularly susceptible to Muslim extremist groups on the prowl for young recruits.
“If you simply don’t have anything to do, it’s hard to resist the call of something that’s hopefully more meaningful than just sitting around and waiting for something to happen. So, many of the countries where refugees come, it’s almost impossible or is impossible by law for them to get involved in gainful employment quickly. It’s hard to them to just fill their days, and they say idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
“That would be one reason why it’s important to engage people in something meaningful; learning that will give them new ideas, new vision for the future.”
With all this in mind, TeachBeyond is standing the gap.
“One practical project we’ve begun in Germany is to have a residence for refugees from a variety of different countries, and offering things like language learning, instruction to help them engage with the German culture, and teaching computer skills as well so they have some practical things they can contribute in their community and help them in the integration process,” says Klassen.
“Also, we’re seeing it’s possible to try to help others engage with educational issues. The needs for food and clothing and housing are very obvious needs, but the larger needs for employment, for perspective, and for hope are sometimes a lot further down on the list. As an organization dedicated to being involved with what God’s doing in education, we can help people see the importance of these issues.”
For those living in North America, the refugee crisis can seem like something “other countries” have to deal with. It doesn’t always feel like something we can or need to address, at least subconsciously.
But Klassen says the refugee situation is closer to our homes than we realize, and that’s a good thing.
“In many parts of North America, it isn’t so far removed. At least in Canada here, we have many refugees locally, and one of the major needs is people just spending time with them, talking to them, and helping them be a part of their community and get engaged in ESL programs.”
Through TeachBeyond’s programs and educational work with refugees, they have seen relationships start soul-shifting conversations about Jesus.
“Friendship and the love of Christ is one of the very foundations for establishing the validity of the message of Christ. So by engaging people as friends, we have an opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel.”
Klassen goes on, “Education is based on an understanding of who people are: made in God’s image, creative people with responsibilities and opportunities, designed to be stewards of God’s world. Communicating those kinds of concepts in practical ways can be very helpful to people who have a different worldview, who see themselves more as pawns in the hands of a God that controls everything and they have very little to contribute. So you can be communicating a Christian, biblical worldview a long time in action maybe before you can do it in words.”
Here’s what you can do:
“I think we need to pray for the Church in the Middle East. We think of the people as refugees when they come to us, but many are displaced and really in turmoil in their home countries. The Church is trying to make a difference and it’s a huge opportunity and responsibility and often they feel alone, unconnected to the Western world. We need to pray for them and help give them the resources they need and the encouragement and help so they will be able to make an effective difference where they are.”
Click here if you’d also like to support TeachBeyond in their educational ministry to refugees!