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Refugees in Protracted Exile Need Long-Term Solutions to Education Gap

Refugees in Protracted Exile Need Long-Term Solutions to Education Gap

  • Posted: Apr 05, 2017 -
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The world is just waking up to the reality that investing in long-term solutions is critical for refugees who linger in camps or informal settlements for years and sometimes decades.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, estimated that by the end of 2015 some 6.7 million refugees – 41 percent of those under their mandate – were in a protracted situation, spending five years or longer in exile.

In camps and villages that have shed characteristics of short-term settlements, children are being born, families are finding ways to survive, and communities hosting refugees are struggling with how to live, work and go to school together.

Education plays a particularly vital role for those who are displaced, as they will be tasked not only with rebuilding their lives, but rebuilding their communities as well.

Last month, I visited three of 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad that are home to over 300,000 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan who fled during a genocide beginning in 2004. At that time, the global community, including American celebrities and activists, mobilized to decry the violence. Now, few hear about the ongoing instability in Darfur and, to an even lesser extent, the thousands of refugees who fled for their lives.

These are areas of the world where refugees find themselves in limbo. They have no hope of returning home, and resettlement to a third country is reserved for the very few – about one percent. Often, this leaves integration into their host community as their only hope.

Jesuit Refugee Service manages all education programs in eastern Chad, from preschool through tertiary education. Refugees and partner organizations told me time and again about the severe impact of systemic budget cuts and donor fatigue. Thus, dilapidated school structures – intended only to last a brief time – cannot be rehabilitated, students have to attend classes in shifts and teacher salaries and incentives remain low.

In Iridimi camp, I met Ibtissam, a preschool teacher who received training from Jesuit Refugee Service last year, but due to a lack of funds, training was not possible this year. She manages a group of 3-6-year-olds and makes do with very little.

Further south, in Goz Amir camp, I met with another group of preschool teachers who were excited about having the opportunity to provide their children with education at a young age. They spoke of children feeling protected, taken care of and at peace. Parents are able to work while their children are in school. The benefits of education to these refugee communities were palpable.

Yet, like many refugee-hosting countries, Chad is juggling a variety of challenges. This includes a significant influx of refugees fleeing the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad region, in the western part of the country.

Chad struggles to provide access to education for its own citizens. According to the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report, the primary school completion rate in Chad is 28 percent. About 90 percent of students in Chad’s primary schools have to share textbooks with at least two students.

Donors and humanitarian organizations must work more closely to develop and fund programs that focus on integration, in which both refugees and the population of the country hosting them will benefit. As with all protracted crises where a displaced population has lived among, or close to, a host population for many years, integration and collaboration between the humanitarian and development sectors is critical.

For those of us working with refugees who have been displaced for many years, Education Cannot Wait, a new fund for education in emergencies that launched last year is placing much-needed focus on these forgotten crises. The goal of Education Cannot Wait is to validate education as a priority in humanitarian responses to longer-term crises and adequately finance the educational needs of millions of children and young people.

Currently housed at UNICEF, Education Cannot Wait has secured $113.4million from a diverse group of donors. The fund chose Chad as one of three countries to receive an initial investment of $10 million over two years. Education Cannot Wait-supported programs in Chad are being developed jointly with humanitarian and development groups with the aim of benefiting both the refugee and host populations.

Programs will be developed by combining components of both the emergency response strategy developed by the humanitarian Education Cluster, a forum coordinated by UNICEF for NGOs, U.N. agencies, academics and others working on education for the displaced, as well as Chad’s 10-year plan for the Development of Education and Literacy.

By taking both a humanitarian and development approach, the programs under development will focus not only on improvements in infrastructure and basic needs like classroom materials and providing food in schools, but also on non-formal education programs and income-generating activities.

During last year’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, hosted by the Obama administration, the Chadian government pledged to take a similar, integrated approach. This included assuming responsibility for, and improving access to, secondary education for approximately 75,000 refugees over the course of the next five years.

The Chadian government also pledged to accredit qualified refugee teachers and allow them to teach in camp, public and private schools. As part of this effort, Jesuit Refugee Service recently launched a scholarship program to enroll refugees in a local teacher-training college and get certified to teach in Chadian secondary schools and in the camps.

There is no singular solution to protracted crisis situations like the one in Chad. But, efforts to engage new donors, collaborate among sectors and focus on opportunities to integrate refugees into host communities are some of the ways that we will be able to increase access to a quality education for refugees facing long periods of exile.

About the author: Giulia McPherson is the Director of Advocacy & Operations at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and core group member of the GIAN Right to Education for All. Prior to joining JRS, Giulia was with CARE USA for 11 years, most recently as Director of Citizen Advocacy. Giulia has a Bachelors in Political Science from Villanova University and a Masters in International Development Studies from The George Washington University.

Editorial piece originally posted here

U.S. Takes Steps to Prioritize Global Education

U.S. Takes Steps to Prioritize Global Education

  • Posted: Feb 01, 2017 -
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By: Giulia McPherson, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

While the world watches as a new Congress and Administration assume power in the United States, the U.S. House of Representatives recently took an important step forward in prioritizing global access to education.

The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act, or READ Act, formerly known as the Education for All Act, came close to passage in 2016. Yet, lawmakers ran out of time and the bill did not become law under the Obama Administration. With the start of a new Congress, champions for global education quickly reintroduced the bill on January 23 and the House of Representatives passed it the following day.

The READ Act was developed to help address the need for access to education for the globally displaced by ensuring that the U.S. has a comprehensive, integrated strategy that improves global educational opportunities for vulnerable children, including those affected by conflict and other emergencies; and facilitates improved coordination within the U.S. government via a Senior Coordinator of U.S. International Basic Education Assistance.

Of the six million primary and secondary school-age refugees under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 3.7 million are not in school. Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children, as the obstacles to full access to education are considerable. Yet, during emergencies and in protracted crises, schools are essential for healing and health and provide opportunity and hope for the future.

I was recently in Chad, home to more than 300,000 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan who fled war and violence over a decade ago. With no hope in sight of return to Darfur as the region remains unstable, education is one of the only long-term solutions for refugees unsure of their futures.

In the midst of a global refugee crisis and funding stretched thin, I saw students eager to learn even without buildings, desks or books. Teachers are doing their best, with meager resources, to ensure that the next generation at least have access to education, but quality is not guaranteed. Jesuit Refugee Service is working to address this challenge by educating nearly 33,000 refugee students through preschool and primary schools in eight camps, and secondary schools in five camps.


Over the past year, JRS/USA has mobilized thousands of people across the U.S. to express their support for refugee education and continued U.S. engagement in ensuring that the most vulnerable have access to a quality education. With passage in the House of Representatives, we now look forward passage in the Senate and working with Congress and the Administration to fully realize the benefits of the READ Act, which will move us one step closer to ensuring that no one is denied the right to an education.


Giulia McPherson is the Director of Advocacy & Operations at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, based in Washington, DC. She can be reached at or @GiuliaMcPherson.


Strenghten GIAN Right to Education core group meet in Madrid

Strenghten GIAN Right to Education core group meet in Madrid

  • Posted: Oct 27, 2016 -
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The Core Group of GIAN (Global Ignatian Advocacy Network) for the Right to Education comprised of representatives from different Conferences (CPAL, Europe, JESAM, South Asia, and Canada/USA) and international organisations (Fe y Alegría and JRS) working within the schools, universities and social organisations of the Society of Jesus met from 10 to 13 October 2016 in Madrid (Spain).

Throughout four days of work, the group reflected on the current state of global education and discussed how to encourage a more concrete commitment among Jesuit institutions to support the right to a quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.

For this purpose, one of the first tasks were to update the positioning document on the right to education that was developed by a group of Jesuit organizations collectively committed with the education in 2008.

One of the aims of this network is to raise awareness at the inner Society about this essential right. Accordingly, some impact data, additional challenges, and the latest communicative outcomes were shared from the coordinating team. One of these outcomes was the video which was launched on June, 2016 as a tool to communicate the “Right of Education, Right to Hope Campaign”.

The Network is based on the urgent need of the access to the education of quality and in the priority of the Company to positively contribute to the greatest good. Due to this reason, it seems to be important to gradually increase the need of enhancing the group networking in support of the justice. In accordance, we could appreciate this issue in the international meeting, with Networking for Justice gathering, which took place in Loyola and where the global Jesuit networks that dedicate to the social apostleship got together.

In this sense, one of the major announcements has been the incorporation of new members to the core group coming from the United States and Latin America. As a result, the core group is actually formed by: Giulia McPherson (JRS USA), Jorge Cardoso (Europe – Social), Ricardo Angulo (JECSE – Europe), Luis Ugalde SJ (CPAL), Mª Eugenia Ocampo (CPAL-AUSJAL); William Muller SJ (USA- Canada Jesuit Schools Network), John Chathanatt SJ (South Asia), Augustin Kalubi SJ (JESAM) Carlos Fritzen SJ y Lucía Rodriguez (Fe y Alegría).

With this global perspective and in a participatory approach, we came up with the idea of how to work together in a network for the subsequent years. As a result, the first lines of action and planification of work were elaborated. In order to carry out this task, we completed a final document with the conclusions and requests which will be sent to the new Superior General, Arturo Sosa SJ and to his government group. The network addresses him with the hope of contribute to what it seems to be impossible in the current days, where there are 263 millions of children who are receiving no schooling education. More than half of this children are located in the South of Asia and Sub Saharan Africa and 61,9 millions of this children live in countries involved in conflict.

Refugee Summits Provide Historic Opportunity for Refugee Education

Refugee Summits Provide Historic Opportunity for Refugee Education

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2016 -
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By: Giulia McPherson

This week, world leaders are gathering in New York City for the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants and the U.S. Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, to agree on policies and set forth commitments that can create significant change in the lives of displaced children who are currently out of school. This presents an historic opportunity to ensure that education in emergencies and protracted crises is prioritized and to follow-up on previous pledges to invest additional resources in these critical programs.

According to a recent report released by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, more than half – 3.7 million – of the six million school-age children under its mandate have no school to go to. Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children and only 50 percent have access to primary education, 22 percent attend lower secondary school and just one percent have access to higher education.

Following the May 2016 launch of Education Cannot Wait, a new fund for education in emergencies, the Refugee Summits provide an opportunity for the global community to further current initiatives that seek to bridge the gap in access to refugee education.

After several months of consultations, a draft New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants has been released, in advance of the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants taking place on September 19. The Declaration calls for the provision of quality primary and secondary education in safe learning environments for all refugee children within a few months of initial displacement. It also supports wider access to early childhood and tertiary education, as well as skills training and vocational education.

To complement this initiative, U.S. President Barack Obama is co-hosting a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees on September 20, in partnership with the Governments of Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden. This Summit will bring together leaders of Member States who are prepared to make new and significant commitments in 2016 that help address the most urgent needs of refugees.

The U.S. Leaders’ Summit aims to 1) increase humanitarian financing by 30 percent; 2) double the global number of resettled refugees; and 3) increase the number of refugees with the right to work by one million and increase the number of refugee children enrolled in school by one million. Organizers of the Leaders’ Summit are expecting both financial and political commitments by participating Member States that will help reach all three goals.

Civil society representatives have called on the UN, the U.S., and world leaders to consider a number of recommendations in advance of the September Summits. These include:

  • Fully funding the new Education Cannot Wait Fund;
  • Ensuring that commitments towards refugee education are new and the previous pledges are not double-counted;
  • Including education as a priority in humanitarian funding appeals;
  • Encouraging refugee-hosting governments to make commitments towards integrating refugee students and teachers into national school systems; and
  • Ensuring that a public accountability mechanism must be put in place to track Summit commitments, including regular public reporting on progress against commitments.


In addition, initial investments by the Education Cannot Wait fund are expected to be made next week in New York, which will also bolster support for, and awareness of, the critical need for education in times of crisis.

While the details have yet to unfold, 3.7 million refugee children are waiting for an answer to whether they will go to school this year. We must deliver on past promises and invest in their futures.

Giulia McPherson is the Assistant Director for Policy |Jesuit Refugee Service/USA You can follow her on Twitter.

World Humanitarian Summit Marks Key Moment for Education in Emergencies

World Humanitarian Summit Marks Key Moment for Education in Emergencies

  • Posted: Jun 13, 2016 -
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After two years of worldwide consultations, last month over 9,000 participants came together in Istanbul for the first World Humanitarian Summit to chart the future course of humanitarian action. The Summit brought together 173 United Nations Member States, 55 Heads of State and Governments, some 350 private sector representatives, and over 2,000 people from civil society and non-governmental organizations.

This tremendous gathering of humanitarian practitioners, together with policymakers, created an historic opportunity to raise awareness about the important role that education plays in rebuilding lives during and after conflict, and its unique role in bridging an ever-present gap between humanitarian and development actors.

Education was at the forefront of the Summit proceedings with a series of side events addressing challenges and innovations in delivering education in emergencies and protracted crises. Jesuit Refugee Service, alongside UNRWA, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), the Global Campaign for Education, TheirWorld and War Child, hosted one such event entitled Delivering Quality Education in Emergencies: What Needs to Be Done? This event featured practitioners, philanthropists and champions advocating on behalf of increasing access to a quality education for refugees and the forcibly displaced.

A Special Session on Education in Emergencies followed and featured the launch of Education Cannot Wait, which aims to transform the global education sector for children affected by crisis by focusing specifically on meeting their educational needs. This effort will both mobilize and coordinate support for these critical programs, which currently only receive two percent of humanitarian funding.

At the launch event, representatives from the United Kingdom ($43.8 million), the United States ($20 million), Norway ($11.2 million), the European Union ($5.6 million), the Netherlands ($7.8 million) and philanthropy Dubai Cares ($2.5 million) pledged just over $90 million to the new Fund. Other governments, including Canada and France, delivered supportive statements but have not yet made a financial commitment.

We applaud champions, including former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for spearheading efforts to launch Education Cannot Wait and for those donors who have supported this effort through their initial commitments.  Yet, we must do more.

Education Cannot Wait has an initial goal of raising $150 million in its first year so that it can adequately begin to address gaps in delivering education programs to those in need. The next pledge “moment” may present itself at a Summit set to take place on September 20 in New York City during the UN General Assembly. The Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, organized by the Obama Administration, will take place on the margins of the UN General Assembly. The Summit will convene Heads of State and Government who have made new and significant commitments this year to address the global refugee crisis.

The collective goals of the Summit are to increase funding to international humanitarian organizations and UN humanitarian appeals; increase opportunities for resettlement and other forms of legal admission for refugees; and expand access to employment and education for refugees in major refugee-hosting states. By including education as a key outcome of this Summit, we can continue building momentum towards achieving goals set forth by Education Cannot Wait.

In the midst of the highest levels of forced displacement the world has seen since World War II, we are seeing unprecedented levels of political will to address these tremendous challenges. As we recognize the historic opportunity presented in the new Education Cannot Wait Fund and look towards this September’s Leaders’ Summit, we must continue to have at the forefront of our minds those individuals, families and communities we are seeking to serve by creating greater opportunity for a quality education.

Giulia McPherson is the Assistant Director for Policy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. She leads the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts as they relate to global education and U.S. asylum policies and oversees a community engagement program to educate and mobilize advocates. Giulia can be reached at or @giuliamcpherson.

Investing in the Future: Why Education in Emergencies Cannot Wait

Investing in the Future: Why Education in Emergencies Cannot Wait

  • Posted: May 19, 2016 -
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Nora’s story is not unique. When she was three years old, she fled violence in Darfur, Sudan with her family and has been living in a refugee camp in Eastern Chad ever since. Going to school was not an obvious path for her. She sells biscuits in the market to help support her family and many girls like her are not in school.

In fact, 75 million children and adolescents aged 3-18 have had their education directly affected by emergencies and protracted crises. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only 50 percent of refugees or internally displaced persons are enrolled in primary school, 25 percent in lower secondary school, and very few have access to pre-primary or tertiary education.

On May 23 & 24, global leaders will gather in Istanbul, Turkey for the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit where a new initiative to mobilize support for education in emergencies will be launched.  Education Cannot Wait, a fund for education in emergencies will look to transform the global education sector for children affected by crises by focusing specifically on meeting their educational needs.

Nora, now 14 years old, is enrolled in a school run by Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), a nonprofit organization rooted in the Jesuit tradition of educating young people. JRS currently operates education programs in more than 25 countries serving over 110,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.

In a new report – Providing Hope, Investing in the Future – JRS identifies a series of barriers faced by displaced families and children, including lack of legal status, poor infrastructure and lack of materials, change in language or curriculum, discrimination, significant learning gaps and dealing with the effects of trauma.

To address these barriers, JRS implements several key strategies, including:

  • Parental Involvement to Ensure Access and Retention
  • A Holistic Approach that Meets All Student Needs
  • Complementary Programs for Parents and Families
  • Investment in Teacher Training and Tertiary Education
  • Emphasis on Language Skills and Remedial Education
  • Youth Programming Focused on Life Skills and Leadership Training

Past investments in educational progress are in jeopardy as we face a record number of long-standing conflicts and resulting global displacement. At this important time, JRS calls on donors, governments and the humanitarian and development communities to take action. Access to education must be prioritized in all stages of humanitarian response with a focus on effective transitions to long-term sustainable solutions, in particular for protracted crises.

We must leverage the Education Cannot Wait Fund and other opportunities to address the lack of access to education for the forcibly displaced. Children like Nora are waiting for the opportunity to go to school and create a future for themselves and their families.


Giulia McPherson is the Assistant Director for Policy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. In this capacity, she leads the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts as they relate to global education and U.S. asylum policies and oversees a community engagement program to educate and mobilize advocates. Giulia can be reached at or @giuliamcpherson.

Who We Are (Team)

Who We Are (Team)

  • Posted: Mar 20, 2015 -
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Lucía Rodríguez
Luis Ugalde, SJ.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Agustín Kalubi, SJ.
Ricardo Angulo
John Chathanatt, SJ. 
India and Nepal
Jorge Cardoso 
Giulia McPherson
Jesuit Refugee Service – USA
Bill Muller, SJ.
Canada and USA
Stefano Sartorello
Right to Education and Justice Observatory

contact on:

Some of the new members of the core group at the Madrid Oct. 2016 meeting-