To prepare for the High-Level Meeting on refugees and migrants in New York in September, Education International joined global unions and civil society at the UN to defend children and educators.

On 18 July, the United Nations (UN) set the stage for the September meeting with Informal Hearings convened by the President of the UN General Assembly.

The Hearings were convened to consult  civil society in preparation for the UN High-level Meeting to address large movements of refugees and migrants, which will be held on 19 September 2016 at UN Headquarters in New York. Education International (EI) will be attending in the fall.

Speaking at the Informal Hearings, Dennis Sinyolo, EI Senior Coordinator, Education and Employment, called upon UN members states to protect the human rights of refugees and migrants. “We need to fight  human wrongs and promote human rights”, he asserted. He called on the UN and its member states to fight discrimination, racism and xenophobia and to promote the fundamental freedoms and rights of refugees and migrants.

He urged governments to ratify and implement relevant UN and ILO migrant and refugee conventions. He particularly urged governments to ratify and implement the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, ILO Migrant Conventions 97 and 143 and the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees.

The UN member states’ attention was drawn to the plight of refugee and migrant children and teachers and these young people’s failure to access quality education in transit and destination countries. “Destination countries’ failure to provide quality education to refugee and migrant children is creating a  lost generation”, Sinyolo said.  

In her intervention, Sonja Hall, Principal Official, Education, at NASUWT (an EI affiliate in the UK), raised concern about the involvement of the private in the provision of education for refugees and migrants. She argued that private providers were driven by corporate interests and the desire to make profits. Hall argued that the so-called low-fee private schools undermine international commitment to provide free primary and secondary education.

In the view of EI, education can equip refugee children and youth with knowledge, skills and values needed for successful integration, employment and life. It promotes such critical values as intercultural understanding, global citizenship, human rights and democracy.  Sinyolo pressed on governments of destination countries to recognise the qualifications of refugee and migrant teachers and to invest in the training and professional development of educators in order for them to meet the specific learning  needs of refugee and migrant children and youth.

In November, EI is holding a conference in Stockholm, hosted by affiliate Lärarförbundet focused on the role of education and educators in response to the refugee crisis in Europe and surrounding countries.