Issues Affecting Equitable Access to Education Around the World
by Denise N. Fyffe
Equitable access to education, internationally, is under threat by issues such as forced migration due to social and political factors. Subsequently, this is a growing concern for many nations. Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are all experiencing the effects and consequences of forced migration.
Children and young people who have not completed their education are affected as well, especially when they can either not afford education or no longer have access to it. If many cases, if it were not for international children’s laws, they would never get access while living as a refugee in another country.
Forced migration escalated over the last decade due to insurmountable political and social issues. According to OpenLearn (2016), more than 65 million people have sought better lives in developed countries after enduring life-threatening excursions across land and sea. Consequently, many thousands have not only died in their country due to war, climate change, and poverty but also while trying to cross oceans on seafaring vessels not built for large numbers.
However, for those who make it and attempt to seek asylum in Europe or the UK, there are no guarantees. Children’s rights protect those who are under 18 years. But, for those who are over 18 years old, the cycle of dread and uncertainty is repeated. “Not quite children, not quite yet adults” chilling words to these children who find themselves in a new country with limited rights and accommodations (OpenLearn, 2016).
Immigrants in The United Kingdom (UK)
According to OpenLearn (2016), “those who are judged to be over 18 will lose the support and advice provided to child refugees: for instance, the UK requirement that children are cared for by the local authority. Instead, they are placed in unsuitable accommodation with adults, or taken to immigration removal centers.” These European countries attempt to deport these immigrants, but they are not always successful, because the countries either deny them, or the situation there is untenable and will expose the children to war, famine, or death. When this happens, “detainees can be indefinitely imprisoned.
Research into conditions within these detention centers has highlighted the poor conditions, with complaints of sexual abuse, fights, and inmates working for extremely low or no wages, and the despair and uncertainty felt by detainees.” Young migrants who were protected by children’s rights laws when they turn 18 years face the harsh reality of being “deported, detained, or sent to another part of the country.” Subsequently, their access to education is interrupted or denied.
Factors Causing Forced Migration in Africa
Africa has also experienced constant political tensions, war, poverty, and other socio-economic irregularities that have left many people displaced. According to Obashoro-John et al. (2017, p. 1), much of these issues occurred in “Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria” in recent years. The issues in these countries were further exacerbated by “rapid population, and unemployed labor force, declining agricultural productivity and increasing rural exodus to urban areas.”
Regardless, there have been no concrete and lasting resolutions for these countries due to overall bad governance. Consequently, Africans are continuously and extensively affected by a growing number of “racial, religious, political and social factors.” These include “ecological problems, ethnic discrimination or cleansing, religion, poverty, misinformation, cultural threat and discrimination in the case of HIV/AIDs victims” (Obashoro-John et al., 2017, p. 2).
Terrorism and sectarianism are also more prominent in varying degrees and millions of people are impacted, forcing them to become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). “The activities of ISIS in Iraq and Syria; Al Shabah in Somalia and Boko-Haram in Nigeria and the West African sub-region have created a flood of refugees and IDPs in the regions mentioned.”
Nigeria with its 450 languages across 400 ethnic groups has a wealth of social, and religious disparities. As such, conflicts are frequent and further agitated by the insurgency efforts of Boko Haram. Due to the socio-economic issues resulting from their activities in Northeastern Nigeria, millions of people are displaced.
Therefore, to accommodate these people more than 32 formal camps, satellite camps and host communities have been established across seven states (Obashoro-John et al., 2017, p. 2). However, education is not a top priority at these camps. “Approximately 20 million refugees under the care of the UNCHR, half are children below 18 years; only 50% of the children are enrolled in primary education; 25% in secondary education, and 1% have access to tertiary education” (Obashoro-John et al., 2017, p. 5).
New Education Measures Needed
The old model of education needs to be revamped, especially if it is to be useful to IDPs and forced migrants all over the world. I agree with Epstein & Yuthas (2012) when they state that “we fervently believe that what students in impoverished regions need are not more academic skills, but rather life skills that enable them to improve their financial prospects and well-being. These include financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills; health maintenance and management skills; and administrative capabilities, such as teamwork, problem-solving, and project management.”
This is vastly different from the present pedagogy that is taught in most schools; however, it is more applicable to real life and better suited to help people not only adjust to the working world but participate and benefit from their endeavors. Too many schools teach subjects that are not applicable or useful once students must fend for themselves; especially when they are not able to pursue tertiary education and advanced studies in some abstract fields due to the challenges presented by forced migration.
This approach can even be adapted to instances where a large population of forced migrants is quickly needed to be prepared to enter the workforce and be inculcated into a particular society. According to Epstein & Yuthas (2012, p. 4), “the health curriculum draws on the work of the World Health Organization and focuses on preventing disease, caring for sick children, and obtaining medical care. The entrepreneurship curriculum is informed by our work with adult entrepreneurs in developing countries, and it draws ideas from a broad range of financial and entrepreneurial programs developed by organizations like the International Labour Organization, Junior Achievement, and Aflatoun.”
Demonstration of this learning is easily transferred to real-life situations. For example, the health curriculum mitigates disease spread and encourages children and participating adults to practice better hygiene, by washing their hands, wearing shoes around pit latrines, and boiling water. Also, using mosquito nets in countries that have huge outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases. The entrepreneurship curriculum helps students become more industrious and business minded. Further to that, they gain soft skills such as “delegation, negotiation, collaboration, and planning.”
Additional approaches may include training migrants to become teachers themselves within these established camps, satellite camps, and host communities.
This will help to build more teacher resources within that community because understandably the resources available to migrants are limited. These teachers could relate to children and adult learners better than foreign teachers ever could. They can also be examples to the members of their migrant community, even if they are in detention camps. As such, involved agencies would see vast improvements and yield greater results when it comes to educating those displaced from their home countries, states, or communities.
Teachers working in these facilities must also endeavor to be more understanding, flexible, and compassionate. People who find themselves displaced due to war, poverty and any number of traumatic experiences are already facing an uphill battle in life. They are dealing with physical, emotional, and psychological trauma and should never be handled with bias or discrimination. Adolescents and adults already face prejudice upon entering these new countries, as such they are more disadvantaged than young children. Consequently, having teachers who are compassionate, understanding, and creative teaching a curriculum that is adapted to their new reality will help them succeed.
Epstein, M., & Yuthas, K. (2012). Redefining education in the developing world (SSIR). Retrieved from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/redefining_education_in_the_developing_world
Obashoro-John, O. A., & Oni, G. J., (2017). Refugee education: The state of Nigeria’s preparedness. universal journal of educational research, 5(6), 989-994. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1143768.pdf
OpenLearn, (2016, September 12). Displaced children of our time. Retrieved from http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/childhood-youth/displaced-children-our-time
About the writer:
Poetess Denise N. Fyffe is a published author of over 40 books, and enjoys volunteering, counseling, mentoring, and engaging in new experiences.
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“…issues affecting equitable access to education around the world. Choose the one issue you feel is most important or pressing. This can be an issue situated in your current country or not. Please describe:
- The issue, and put it in context,
- How can teachers help affect this issue?