rohingya refugee children in classroom Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

The Missing Link of Refugee Response

As the world's refugee crises continue to deepen and multiply, more displaced children will be at risk of missing out on a basic education. That is a travesty not just for out-of-school kids, but also for entire communities and countries that will someday need to be rebuilt.

GENEVA – In early July, I traveled to the Kutupalong refugee settlement in Bangladesh, which is now host to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled horrific violence in Myanmar. With the monsoon rains hammering on the roof, I watched girls and boys learn the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic for just two hours a day. After that, it was time to hand the room over to the next group of children.

It was heart-rending to witness this faint semblance of proper schooling – all the more so because the children clearly valued their education. Without it, their future, and that of their communities, will be irreparably damaged.

More than half of the world’s refugees are children; yet, among school-age refugees, more than half are not getting an education. All told, four million young minds are not receiving the schooling that they need to realize their potential. And, worse still, the number of out-of-school refugee children has increased by 500,000 in the last year alone. If current trends continue, hundreds of thousands more refugee children will be added to the ranks of the educationally deprived.