OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

What barriers prevent refugees to access education?

Sharing relevant research on urban refugees and access to education

Photo of Maurizio Bricola
3 6

Written by

Hi All, I did some desktop research on challenges that refugees are facing in accessing education, some interesting research papers have been published in the past years, the video above summarises already some of the barriers experienced by refugees in specific countries.

UNHCR has published a great research (see the full DOC) about challenges faced by refugees (and local communities and governments) in accessing education. I encourage everyone has joined this challenge to read the full doc is very insightful.

I am going to quote few critical paragraphs:

Access and Enrolment

Refugees often face considerable problems to access education in urban settings.
There is a general lack of clear regulatory frameworks and legal provisions to govern  the admission of refugee children in schools as well as a lack of procedures to notarize school certificates in order to ensure a smooth transfer to the school system back home following repatriation. Admission without proper documentation is a major issue at all levels.

Even where refugee children have gained access to educational institutions, they may  face discrimination from school administrators who do not wish to see non-national children in their classrooms or from teachers who will not encourage full participation. They may also face harassment and bullying by students. Traumatized children may not have access to appropriate counselling services.

Many schools may not enrol students if they are more than two or three years above the class average and thus disrupt their education. In other instances, refugees face problems of access similar to other socially and economically marginalized groups within urban areas, for example in regard to tuition fees or transport costs to reach schools.

Financial constraints due to the lack of legal access to employment and income  continue to prevent parents to send their children to school. These include high living costs in cities, school costs for uniforms, textbooks, feeding and transport. With increasing lack of financial resources, children may be withdrawn from school by  parents in order for them to work and support the family.

High drop-out, non-attendance and low completion rates are often the result of the above mentioned financial constraints, often leading to child labour. Moreover, cultural practices such as early marriages or favouring boys’ education over girls’ education are major reasons for high drop-out and low attendance rates. Traumatic experiences, poor health status or disabilities and mental health problems as well as cultural and lingual differences, discrimination and harassment by fellow students and teachers are also contributing factors for non-attendance and high drop-out rates.

Language problems and difficulties to adjust to national curricula may aggravate the situation, particularly in the case of newly arriving refugees.

The full document contains 3 case studies in Nairobi, Kampala and Damascus, with highlighted best practices and recommendations.


This inspired (1)

Play For Everyone


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thanks for sharing this research Maurizio! Looking forward to learning from the best practices.

View all comments