brown77_Rodrigo AvellanedaAnadolu AgencyGetty Images_refugee older students Rodrigo AvellanedaAnadolu AgencyGetty Images

Education in an Age of Displacement

With the number of displaced people on course to double by mid-century, if not sooner, developing their potential is crucial. Extending hope and opportunity to young people at risk of being left behind is a powerful way to advance human rights, promote equality, and foster peace and stability.

LONDON – The ongoing flood of refugees from Afghanistan – now some 2.6 million strong – is sadly no isolated tragedy. Indeed, if all of today’s 82.4 million refugees and forcibly displaced persons were gathered into a single state it would be the world’s twentieth largest country by population. If current trends continue, and climate change adds substantially to the numbers as the World Bank predicts, the number of refugees and displaced persons by mid-century could exceed the population of Brazil, and nearly that of Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and France combined. With sea levels rising, some forecasters suggest that the world’s displaced population – already the largest recorded in human history – could exceed one billion.

Long before we heard anything about a novel coronavirus, the rising number of refugees was being driven by the pathogens of war and ethnic and religious hatred, and by our collective inability to feel others’ pain. Refugee “camps” have become permanent cities, but most refugees are dispersed in hovels, huts, and rented accommodation, where they have been living for almost 20 years on average, with no end in sight.

Tragically, among the millions suffering from this disruption is a lost generation of young people with little access to education and employment. Think of the talent that would be lost, the ability squandered, and the potential untapped if a country’s entire youth population was denied these opportunities.