“Her Turn”, a report from UNHCR reveals that refugee girls at secondary level are only half as likely to enroll in schools as their male peers.
Social and cultural conventions often result in boys being prioritized over girls to attend school. Poor facilities such as a lack of appropriate toilet facilities and menstrual supplies can block refugee girls’ access to schools.
To help more refugee girls get a quality education, UNHCR’s report highlights a number of actions and policies that are both effective and deliverable.
“If we continue to neglect refugee girls’ education, the consequences will be felt for generations,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “It is time to make refugee girls’ education a priority.”
1.Schools must make space for girls.
It is girls who most often lose out in the competition for a place in the classroom. More school places for refugee girls – and for their peers in the communities that host them – are desperately needed. Refugee children around the world are affected by a shortage of school places, particularly at secondary level, where the shortfall is acute.
 Donors and agencies alike need to support policies that ensure inclusive and equitable access as the way to redress the balance. By boosting capacity, we will also benefit girls in host communities as well as refugees, bringing long-term advantages and improved resilience to successive generations in areas that need help themost.
2.No girl should miss school because the journey to school is too far or too dangerous.
Refugee girls need better protection from harassment, sexual assault and kidnap on the way to school. Community action to protect refugee children with support from local authorities should be a priority. “School trains,” when groups of pupils travel together with a regular adult escort, are a solution when the school is within walking distance.
However, long journeys to secondary school are a deterrent for many children, particularly girls. Improved transport, such as the provision of all-girl buses, can determine whether refugee girls are allowed to go to school by their parents or not. Boarding schools for girls have proven successful in some settings, as well as hostels where girls can stay in safety during the school week or term.
3.Schools must be adapted to girls’ needs.
No girl should have to miss school because they lack menstrual hygiene products, access to clean water or private and safe toilets. When separate toilet facilities are not provided for girls, they are less likely to go to school. Schools need support to provide these basic facilities and products.
4.There can be no room for gender-based bullying, harassment and violence in schools.
Male and female teachers require ongoing training to ensure they promote best practice and guard against behavior that will deter girls from setting foot in the classroom. Teachers are in the perfect position to promote and instill ideas of gender equality and mutual respect among girls and boys.
5.Refugee families need incentives and encouragement to keep girls in school.
If refugee adults are able to work and support their families, they are more likely to let their children stay in school. Frequent parent-teacher meetings can help parents understand their role in facilitating effective schooling.
The provision of light and sustainable energy to refugee homes can also enable many girls to go to school because they don’t need to spend hours collecting firewood. It also means they can do their homework or catch up on their studies after nightfall.
6.Refugee pupils need more female teachers.
There is an urgent need to recruit and train more female teachers from within both host and refugee communities. Girls and boys need female role models, but girls, in particular, are likely to be encouraged and motivated by the presence of an educated woman in the classroom.
7.With some extra help, girls can catch up and power on.
Extracurricular activities provide remedial, enrichment or mentoring services to enable girls to catch up (where necessary), boost their studies and thrive both academically and emotionally. While these should not be seen as an alternative to regular school, they can help to improve academic performance and, as a result, self-confidence.