Urban Refugee Education: Strengthening Policies and Practices for Access, Quality, and Inclusion

Mendenhall, Mary; Russell, S. Garnett; Bruckner, Elizabeth

The number of forcibly displaced people across the globe has increased dramatically in the past two decades, exceeding 65 million in 2016--a level not seen since the period directly following World War II. The image of refugees living together in camps is no longer the norm. Sixty percent of today’s refugees live scattered and embedded across large urban areas. The urbanization of refugees is creating new obstacles for refugee children who find it difficult or impossible to attend school, even though they are entitled by international law to do so. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, half the world’s displaced people are children under 18. Half of refugee children are enrolled in primary school, 22 percent in secondary school and only one percent in higher education. Adding to the complications of urbanization, longer conflicts have increased the average worldwide duration of refugee status to 20 years. Millions of refugee children are spending their entire childhoods in exile without ever attending school, despite their right to obtain an education. Despite much public discussion of the global refugee crisis in wealthy, westernized nations, 86 percent of all displaced people reside in the “Global South,” in poor, developing countries, often in countries adjacent to their homelands. That is where we focused our study. This report presents findings of our survey of 190 professionals involved in the delivery of educational services to refugees in 16 countries, including an in-depth studies of refugee education in three cities--Beirut, Lebanon; Nairobi, Kenya; and Quito, Ecuador. The report includes policy recommendations based on our findings.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
International and Comparative Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
March 15, 2017