Refugee students smile at camera. In Kakuma Refugee Camp, UNHCR is advocating for technical support and financing for the inclusion of refugees and camp-based schools in the national education system.
© UNHCR/Pauline Omagwa

Refugee Education

Without access to education, children miss out on a world of opportunity.

Education is the ultimate tool of empowerment, transforming lives and creating pathways to better futures.

For children and adolescents forced to flee their homes, education provides stability and security when everything else in their lives seems to have fallen apart.

By upholding the basic right of every child to receive an education, UNHCR aims to prevent a ‘lost generation’ of youth who are unable to forge a future for themselves or help rebuild their country.

But as the number of people forcibly displaced by conflict rises, resources are increasingly stretched.

Unfortunately, half of school-age refugee children do not attend school. Refugee girls are even less likely to attend and generally only receive a few years of formal schooling. 

Quality education helps refugee children prepare for the future and recover from the effects of trauma. Access to a safe place to learn reduces the chance of exploitative and dangerous child labour. It can also greatly reduce the risk of early child marriages for girls.

Sophie’s Story

When 19-year-old Sophie fled armed conflict in South Sudan, she made sure to bring her science book. She was determined to continue working towards her goal of becoming a doctor.

“I carried the book because I love sciences and I wanted the book to keep me focused,” Sophie says. “I want to be a doctor because, in my motherland, these opportunities are mostly left for the men.”

She now lives in Bidibidi refugee settlement in north-western Uganda. It’s Africa’s largest refugee camp and hosts 235,000 refugees who have fled violence and conflict.

More than half are children between the ages of three and 17.

With the support of Australian donors, UNHCR is rebuilding a school, contributing to teachers’ salaries and reducing class sizes. This means students like Sophie can receive a quality education – an important step towards a more secure future. 

The Year 10 student is very grateful for the generosity that enables her to stay in school.

“I feel good and loved that there are people out there who are willing to sacrifice and give us the education we get here. I appreciate them for the great work done.”

“I feel good and loved that there are people out there who are willing to sacrifice and give us the education we get here.”

Sophie, South Sudanese refugee in Uganda

Young girl in school uniform smiles at camera. South Sudanese refugee, Sophie during a chemistry class in Uganda.
© UNHCR/Jjumba Martin

Our fundraising impact

The majority of funds raised by Aotearoa New Zealand for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.

Humanitarian programs