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Do Afghan Refugees Have No Right to Education in Pakistan?

Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees since 1979. More than 4.4 million Afghanis have sought refuge in Pakistan between 1979-2001, with over 3.2 million refugees in the country at the height of displacement. As a result, Pakistan has ranked as the world’s top refugee hosting country for 22 out of the past 37 years.

80 percent of Afghan refugees are still out of school. The remaining 20 percent of Afghan refugee children are attending public or private schools. Lack of identity documentation, a pressure to earn money to support their families, language problems, and poverty are just some of the reasons that keep refugee children out of school.

Due to so many barriers Afghan Refugees still attend UNHCR funded schools. According to a study by Asia Development Solutions Platform (ADSP), 31,266 children still attend UNHCR refugee schools.

As of June 2021, UNHCR has 100 primary schools across the 43 refugee villages in KP. A total of 31,266 Afghan refugee children (65 percent boys, 35 percent girls) are enrolled in these schools. Enrolment is free, and students are provided with stationery, books, school bags and uniforms. The teachers are qualified and have received teacher training from the Provincial Institute for Teacher Education (PITE). There are no significant barriers to registration and enrolment of Afghan children in these schools. However, a distinct precondition is that the child must be a Proof of Registration (PoR) card holder. The school administration – through Parent-Teacher Committees – run enrolment campaigns and sensitise parents to enrol their children in refugee village schools.

It is a sad reality that it has been over 40 years since Pakistan has been accommodating Afghan refugees and their plight is still unheard. As shown in Table 1, there still is a huge gender gap between in the enrolment. In most of the refugee schools no extra-curricular activities were offered, limiting the development of students. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a deterioration of access to and quality education as many of the refugees did not have access to means for remote education. The classrooms are extremely small with no furniture. Furthermore, the distribution of books is very slow, and the number of books does not match the number of students.

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