Thousands of refugees in Uganda aren’t attending school due to a lack of funding, the UNHCR reported Wednesday at a press conference. An entire generation could miss out on education if the response plan budget isn’t met.
Of the 1.2 million refugees Uganda hosts, 62% are school-aged children under the age of 18. Most refugees in the country are fleeing civil war in South Sudan and violent conflicts in the Democratic of Congo.
Joel Boutroue, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative, said only 60% of refugee children have access to primary school education in Uganda. Those who do make it to school are packed into overcrowded classrooms where the ratio of students to teachers is over 100 to 1.
"If we don't redouble our efforts this year, we will face an increasingly delicate if not a desperate situation when it comes to the refugees themselves and also the host communities," he said.
In Uganda, only 12% of children who complete their primary education move on to finish secondary school because they lack the resources and financial support required, Boutroue explained.
But Uganda isn’t the only country struggling to provide quality education for refugees. Since 2016, refugees all over the world have collectively missed 1.5 billion days of school, according to UNESCO. Makeshift schools, many of which aren’t certified, language barriers, and limited resources prevent students from excelling in the classroom. Young refugee girls are especially vulnerable when they lose opportunities to learn. Dropping out leads to higher rates of child marriage, exploitation, and trafficking.
Investing in education gives displaced children the chance to heal from trauma, rebuild their countries, and prevent future conflict, but low-income countries can’t do it alone. While Uganda has received praise for championing refugee education in the past, the country needs more financial support to keep doing so. Boutroue said Uganda will require $1 billion to continue assisting its refugee population.