Promoting quality education for all.

Protecting Refugees’ Access to Education- Girl Up

Madeline Mai and Nehal Jain, 

Photo from Girl Up shows a group of happy girls with their arms around each other walking. They are wearing empowering girls shirts.

Every year, James Madison High School buzzes with excitement of the new school year. As summer comes to an end we are always excited to dive back into our studies, and one of our favorite activities is going back to school shopping. We love choosing binders and matching notebooks and buying the latest innovation in the pen world (this year it’s erasable pens). But it also makes us think of the millions of refugee children that are denied an education. These children won’t have the opportunity to learn basic math or reading skills, or about World War II, even though many of these kids are living in the world’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Today 65 million people globally are displaced from their home, and of these 65 million displaced people 50% of them are under the age of 18. The average refugee stays in exile for 20 years; many spending their childhood away from their homes and schools. Globally, the enrollment rate for primary school is 90%, but for refugee children it is 61% and that number drops dramatically with only 22% of refugee children being able to enroll in secondary school. Education makes it easier for people to rebuild their lives and communities. It offers psychological stability and increases economic opportunities. In particular, refugee girls, are the most vulnerable when not educated. These girls are more likely to be victims of sexual assault, child brides, fall victim to extremist ideology, and have less socioeconomic opportunities. Girls who receive an education marry later, have fewer children, and are more likely to get healthcare for themselves and their children. Educated women are better able to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Photo from Girl Up shows a smiling young girl holding a book.

When refugee children, especially girls, have access to education they can start to build more peaceful and prosperous communities. This cause is close to our heart because we have always had access to top-quality education. Education was never a question mark in my life. Our school is filled with advanced placement classes, clean facilities, and amazing science labs. We have supportive parents and amazing resources at the touch of a button, but these resources aren’t available to everyone around the world. We want to change that, and hope Congress passes the “Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act”. This legislation will increase refugees’ access to education by authorizing the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development to enhance the training and capacity-building for national governments hosting refugees, and promote the hosting of refugees within local educational systems especially with innovative solutions such as shift schools and extended hours. This legislation will help refugee girls have a voice and become leaders in their community – just like us. After all, an educated society is a more prosperous and free society.

Nehal Jain is President of the James Madison High School Girl Up Club and Madeline Mai is a member of the James Madison High School Girl Up Club.

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