Opinion Former Article

Failure to meet needs of refugee children condemned

The NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, has highlighted the appalling impact of the global refugee crisis on the world’s children and young people.

Moving a motion on the impact of the refugee crisis on children at TUC Congress in Brighton, NASUWT President Kathy Wallis called on the UK Government to play its full part in ensuring all refugee and displaced children are able to access education and are protected from abuse and violence.

She highlighted the fact that over half of the 21 million refugees registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are under 18, many travelling unaccompanied. Of these, 3.6 million are school-aged children with no access to education.

She told Congress:

“In the midst of destruction, violence, and instability, schools are a sanctuary; a haven of normality and hope; a place of learning and opportunity.

“Neglecting a child’s right to education undermines not only their future, but also the future of their societies.

“Lack of education leaves children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including recruitment into armed groups, child labour and early marriage.

“Despite this desperate situation, just one per cent of the global humanitarian aid budget is spent on education.”

She added:

“The NASUWT has a proud history of working with our teacher trade union colleagues in areas such as these, providing practical assistance including financial support and training.

“As well as our work in Turkey and across the Middle East and North Africa, our Union has maintained a long-standing relationship with teacher trade union colleagues supporting the Burmese Karin refugee community in Thailand.

“However, much more must be done to support refugee and displaced children within their native countries, in neighbouring states and here in the UK.”


Notes to editors

The text of the motion is below:

Impact of refugee crisis on children
Congress expresses profound concern at the continuing impact of the global refugee crisis on the world’s children and young people.

Congress notes that half of the world’s refugees are aged under 18, many travelling unaccompanied.

Congress recognises the entitlements of all children and young people set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which affirms the right to shelter, protection from abuse, access to healthcare, freedom from violence, and the entitlement of all children to high-quality education.

Congress deplores that:
i many child refugees are denied fundamental rights in practice
ii only one per cent of global budget for humanitarian aid is invested in education
iii many schools serving refugee and displaced children are being targeted through violence
iv children living with the trauma of rape, sexual violence and armed conflict do not have access to appropriate and timely mental and emotional support.

Congress welcomes the work of the NASUWT and the wider trade union movement in working with national and international partners to deliver practical education assistance to meet the needs of refugee and displaced children.

Congress calls on the UK government to play its full part in securing refugee children’s rights by:
a committing to work with international bodies including Unicef to ensure that all schools are free from militarisation and violence
by ensuring that refugee children in the UK are given access to the full range of educational support, mental health support and resources they need to help refugee learners achieve and succeed.

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