As the number of people displaced by conflict reaches record levels, refugee children have told SAT-7 how our educational programme My School is helping them to continue learning while away from home.
On World Refugee Day (20 June), the UN said it was the first time the number of refugees worldwide had passed the 60 million mark, with the highest numbers coming from Syria and Afghanistan.
Half of all refugees are aged under 18. They are crying out for peace; to be able to go back to their homes, schools and friends. With millions of these displaced youngsters unable to go to school, there are concerns that they will become a “lost generation”: bored, frustrated, embittered and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
But SAT-7’s My School programme, which is now in its second series, is offering hope to displaced children by enabling them to continue learning – wherever they are.
“When I started learning, I was ecstatic”
A SAT-7 crew recently visited a refugee camp in Lebanon where it was clear how much the children appreciated the opportunity to learn. We filmed a group of children watching an episode of My School on a large TV in a makeshift “classroom”. They were completely absorbed in the “lesson”, repeating after the teachers and writing down what they were learning in workbooks on the floor. “When I started learning, I was ecstatic,” said one young girl.
A little boy told SAT-7: “I was in Syria and I dropped out of school because of the war. [My School] is really helping me to learn more. I am learning to read and write in Arabic.”
The current series of My School is aimed at 5 to 7-year-olds and provides lessons in Arabic, English, maths and science. We plan to expand the age range and subjects as more funding becomes available.
Call for emergency education funding
UN education envoy Gordon Brown has stressed the importance of providing education for children caught up in conflict and other disasters. Education currently receives only 2% of humanitarian aid in emergency situations. Announcing in May the launch of a rapid response fund for education, the former British Prime Minister said:
“Without school, young children caught up in emergencies are at risk of becoming the youngest labourers in the field, the youngest brides at the altar, the youngest soldiers in the trench and, in some cases, the youngest recruits vulnerable to extremism and radicalisation.”
One of the refugee children interviewed by SAT-7 showed wisdom beyond his years when he too – like Gordon Brown – highlighted the wider impact of education: “If children were able to get an education, to read and write, they won’t act the same as those people they see on TV.”