The right to education is a fundamental right for all – including refugees.

Photo: © UNHCR/Antoine Tardy

The gains in educational enrolment highlighted in our most recent report on education represent life-changing opportunities for tens of thousands of refugee children, adolescents and youth.

Refugee enrolment in primary school now stands at 77 per cent. Less than half of refugee children who start primary school make it to secondary level, however, and only 31 per cent of refugee children were enrolled at secondary level in 2019. It still represents a rise of two points on the previous year. But even if refugee adolescents overcome the odds and make it through secondary school, only 3 per cent will be lucky enough to get a place in some form of higher education.

For refugee girls, the threat is particularly grave. Refugee girls already have less access to education than boys and are half as likely to be enrolled in school by the time they reach secondary level. Find out the latest statistics on refugees and forced displacement.

Education is a fundamental human right. The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants pinpoints education as a critical element of the international refugee response. Moreover, we strive to achieve every goal in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to “ensure inclusive and quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

UNHCR partners  with governments, international and local organizations to ensure a quality education for all refugees and children everywhere. Together  with your help, they can learn how to rebuild their lives.

Education is a basic human right

enshrined in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Education protects refugee children

and youth from forced recruitment into armed groups, child labour, sexual exploitation and child marriage.

Education empowers children

by giving refugees the knowledge and skills to live productive, fulfilling and independent lives. 

Education enlightens refugees

enabling them to learn about themselves and the world around them, while striving to rebuild their lives.

Eighteen-year-old South Sudan refugee Esther Nyakong (C) and fellow students at the Morneau Shepell boarding school for girls study computer literacy in 2016. Esther reached the nearby Kakuma refugee complex in northwest Kenya after fleeing her home with her mother and two sisters in 2008 and hopes to eventually attend university though less than 1% of refugee students reach higher education. ; The Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya was established in 1992 to house thousands of refugees fleeing civil war in neighboring Sudan. By 2016 the population had swelled to nearly 190,000 and included civilians from South Sudan, Sudan, Burundi, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Uganda and Rwanda.


UNHCR advocates for education for all. We are committed to extending primary and secondary education opportunities to all children and youth, and give them the chance to reach higher education. In an effort to address barriers to education, we have worked to improve access and retention of children in primary school through cash grants and vouchers, capacity building for teachers, expansion of safe learning spaces and strengthening partnerships with key education partners.

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