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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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This is a very interesting read, particularly when one remembers that many of the Afghan refugees are second and third generations, meaning that Pakistan is all they know. Yet the state still disowns them and refuses to make necessary provisions that can help them improve their lives and circumstances. In fact, although the constitution guarantees education, the state conveniently turns a blind eye towards them. Even the recent move toward providing them citizenship (before which they were almost wholly unprotected, with a lack of rights and resources) has not been followed by any attempt to provide education.

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Access to education is critical for refugees in building resilience, creating community support networks, and giving the skills required to access future livelihoods and live independent and meaningful lives. Schools are also places where instructors may detect hazards that children face, such as healthcare issues, suspected abuse, learning disabilities, or other support services.


Classrooms have the ability to be transformative throughout a child's formative years. Children may establish the foundations required to transcend poverty and lead independent and resilient lives if excellent and inclusive education is accessible and children and their parents are dedicated to the education on offer. Education and training also offer the foundation for all people, whether refugees or not, to seek and acquire productive work when…


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Very insightful! Your post sheds light upon a pressing issue that endangers the longevity of Afghani refugee's survival within Pakistan. The government's attitude towards education as a sector is one of indifference and nonchalance: schools destroyed by natural disasters or terrorist attacks are not constructed even decades later creating a literacy deficit. Similarly, within the case of the Afghan refugees, as your post highlights, the hurdled access to education and the unwillingness on the government's part, appears to be an extension of Pakistan's domestic policy traditions (pertaining to education). After reading your post, I thought perhaps this unwillingness is also stemming from another shrewd perspective: refugees at times bring an influx of skilled and unskilled individuals that are exploited by…

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I think something wonderful about your post is that it is not only reflective of the burden faced by Pakistan, but a plight of almost all developing nations whereby they have to disproportionately face the consequences of the actions of developed countries, despite not having the resources to cater to these problems. I am, of course, referring to Pakistan being included in the list of most refugee hosting countries. Many refugees also come as a result of geo-political struggles.

While not relevant to the content of your post, the topic of pollution because of big powers causing environmental catastrophes in countries like Pakistan exacerbate this issue further and environmental refugees increase the burden of providing education among other things.

Also,…

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Your post was very insightful. I just want to further add a gender intersectional lens on how access to education for Afghan refugee girls in Pakistan is lagging behind way more than it is for boys. Within the broader population of Afghan refugee children in Pakistan – particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – girls face additional obstacles in obtaining an education. As of June 2021 like you mentioned, it was estimated that out of the current 31,266 students studying at schools in the so-called ‘refugee villages’, only 35 percent were girls. In many locations, girls’ schools do not even exist, or they are located too far from refugee housing, which leaves co-educational schools as the only available option – on…

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