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Concerns with Pakistan's Afghan Refugee Education Plan

Pakistan’s education policy regarding Afghan refugees has been underwhelming, to say the least. 2019 marks the 40th year of UNHCR’s collaboration with Pakistan to help Afghan refugees attain what is their fundamental human right. For the year 2020-2022, 4 main objectives were identified by UNHCR.

  1. Access to quality primary, secondary and tertiary education

  2. Increase girls’ participation in education.

  3. Include refugees within the public education programs and systems

  4. Strengthen the linkages to education pathways

While the pandemic may have halted progress on the goals set by UNHCR, it is still interesting to see what policymakers choose to focus on and what they omitted from the report.

The first thing that is apparent is that the literacy rate of Afghan refugees over the past few decades has gotten worse. The 2nd and 3rd generation of Afghan refugees are less educated when compared to their predecessors. More importantly, this shows a bigger problem with the assimilation of these refugees into the general population.

Firstly, no special context or consolidated curriculum is created for Afghan refugees. They learn what is taught across Pakistan, including the entire nationalism-inducing curriculum of Pakistan. This is to be expected since Pakistan’s education budget does not include any specific quota for Afghan refugees either. Furthermore, with education being devolved to provinces in Pakistan, foreign collaboration with UNHCR also becomes difficult since they have to deal with different bureaucracies at the same time.

There’s a significant geographical concern with the implementation of a refugee-specific curriculum. Since a majority population of Afghan refugees actually live in urban areas and not in camps, it is much harder logistically to cater to the special needs of refugees. If this continues, the most likely statistical conclusion is that Afghan refugees' literacy rates would go closer and closer to the provinces they repatriated into. Of course, an intersectional lens tells us that this homogenization of literacy rates would not show the much more severe ideological impact such a policy would have on Afghan refugees.

In conclusion, while UNHCR’s report begins to scratch the surface of how Afghan refugees are being educated in Pakistan, it fails to understand the geographical limitations and implementation obstacles that plague Pakistan’s policymaking.

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5 commentaires

an insightful post!

the lack of interest or motivation from the Pakistani government to cater to the needs of Afghan refugees is alarming. considering the fact that Pakistan hosts the highest numbers of afghan refugees and also gets monetary compensation from international actors to provide them with necessary facilities, it shows incompetence and failure of the state. as discussed in our class as well, that a mere identification card was started to get issued for refugees just recently tells you the state they have to live in. and if we talk about the social discrimination these people face to get that one card and be able to access education, it is a whole new and an unfortunate debate.


Great post! The government appears reluctant in their policies to rehabilitate and facilitate the refugees it has decided to host. As you have rightfully pointed out, there is no budget dedicated to this demographic's education yet is it not possible that there maybe a more deliberate reasoning governing this nonchalance. The general benefits quoted for hosting refugees on humanitarian grounds is that of the benefit they may render to the economy - in a capitalist world, the humanitarian gesture is weighed in terms of monetary benefits. Refugees comprise of large numbers of skilled and unskilled individuals who are often exploited by local contractors, as their deplorable financial conditions compel them to work for less than the minimum wage and so…


Great post. The fact is that Pakistan is educating millions of refugees in a dysfunctional schooling system. However, the matter of fact is that the schooling in all over the country’s public sector is dysfunctional. A huge reason behind this is the lack of financial resources. Pakistan spends only about 2 % of its GDP on education, the lowest share among all countries in the Southern Asian region. Pakistan does not even have the resources to cater its own population, this is why it does not even thinks about the Afghan Refugees. You mentioned the brilliant point of Afghan refugees being taught the same curriculum as the rest of the country. However, I think this is due to a lack…


Great post! I think for refugees, access to education plays a crucial role in generating resilience, strengthening community support networks, providing the skills needed to access future livelihoods, and to live independent and rewarding lives. Schools also act as spaces where educators can identify risks faced by children – whether that be healthcare needs, potential abuse, learning difficulties, or other support services. In a child’s formative years, classrooms have the potential to be transformational. If quality and inclusive education is available, and children and their parents are committed to the education on offer, children can develop the foundations needed for them to escape poverty and lead independent and resilient lives. Education and training also provide the bedrock needed for all…


Afghanistan, from the Soviet invasion to the US’ long war, faces continued Human Security challenges, especially lack of education in around 80 percent of school-aged children of Afghan refugees. Pakistan, which itself has the second largest number of school-aged children out of school, faces illiteracy in children of Afghan refugees. The growing illiteracy in second and third-generation Afghan refugees is the product of poverty, socio-economic disparities, and socio-cultural restrictions, especially in regards to the relative discouragement of female education. But Pakistani government is also in enhancing educational infrastructure in terms of community and home-based schooling, vocational and technical training, and capacity building of Pakistan’s schooling system to accommodate Afghan refugee children.

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