The global refugee crisis is a major challenge for the present generation, believes actress-activist Angelina Jolie, the Special Envoy for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Jolie has written an opinion piece for CNN, sharing her thoughts on the anguish that refugees face, including the pain of being unable to provide their children with food when they are hungry or medicine when they are ill or injured, according to a statement.
“I have also seen how much it weighs on refugee parents when they are unable to send their children to school, knowing that with each passing year, their life prospects are shrinking and their vulnerability is growing,” she wrote.
“In a new report, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warns that rising numbers of refugee children are not receiving an education. While the implications are grave, our response should not be to despair but instead to see an opportunity.
“The global refugee crisis is a major challenge for our generation. But the task is not hopeless. Refugees themselves are not passively waiting for help but are actively searching for ways to be part of the recovery of their countries. Education is a key to helping them to do this,” she wrote.
Jolie pointed out how people often talk about refugees as a single mass of people — “a burden”.
“We do not see the intricate mosaic of individual men, women and children with their diverse backgrounds and immense human potential. There are millions of young refugees with the energy and desire and commitment to study and work, who want to contribute to the societies that host them and ultimately help rebuild their home countries.
“There are millions of displaced parents who will make every sacrifice imaginable to help their children go to school.”
The actress stressed how rebuilding a country doesn’t happen with peace agreements and resolutions alone.
As necessary as those are, she said it happens with millions of school report cards, exams passed, qualifications obtained, jobs acquired, and young lives turned to good purpose rather than spent languishing in camps.
“No one dreams of being a refugee; they dream of living up to their potential. They long to better themselves and their families. This is something we all instinctively understand and can relate to. We experience the power of education in our own families,” she added.
Jolie, who raises six children, says the loss of a child’s education is a tragedy.
“With many wars today lasting longer than the duration of a childhood, this can mean a country losing out on an entire generation of education and skills amongst its young people,” she said.
UNHCR, she said, is calling for refugee children to have access to a proper curriculum all the way through primary and secondary school, so they can get recognised qualifications and have a chance at higher education.
Urging for support to be given to countries in developing regions, who host 92 per cent of the world’s school-age refugees, she hopes more refugee children can be included in national education systems.
“We are urging wealthier nations to address humanitarian funding shortfalls, so refugee parents don’t have to choose between food and schooling for their children,” said Jolie.