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Eamonn Casey, Project Officer for Human Rights shares some of the insights from a recent review of Misean Cara Education projects that support equal education rights for refugees, internally displaced and migrants. Read Eamonn’s blog below.


Missionary Effectiveness Offers Pointers for Global Education Focus on the Displaced

Both the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report (Migration, Displacement and Education), launching in Dublin on Thursday 6 December, and the recent Global Compacts on Refugees and on Migration bring a welcome renewed focus to the rights to education of the millions of people displaced and on the move in the world today.

Misean Cara welcomes the timely focus on quality education for refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and migrants, particularly in light of its own additional focus in this area and the opportunities presented by Ireland’s drafting of a new International Development Policy.

Education as a human rightMisean Cara members have been delivering quality education in developing countries for generations, often starting in a harsh environment with nothing other than vision, courage and dedication. In particular, we support projects that address equity of access, quality of learning and educational outcomes, and contribute to system strengthening.

From 2016-2018, Misean Cara invested more than €12 million in education initiatives in 38 countries, with its members mobilising some €4 million more in additional funding.

Lebanon and Kenya-based Out Of the Box has recently analysed the effectiveness of a range of Misean Cara-funded projects that support equal education rights for refugees, internally displaced persons or migrants.

In its findings so far, it has noted that the projects deliver high-quality education consistent with Government policies; seek to address structural causes; and often bring benefits unintended in the project design, for participants, families and the wider community.

Education as a human right 2Out of the Box has identified a number of key success factors among the six projects it assessed in five countries: Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, India and Lebanon. These include: a participatory approach; responsiveness to local context and needs; a holistic approach; careful targeting; an emphasis on gender equality and psycho-social support; and, importantly, the particular experience and expertise of the missionary development organisations involved.

The review also notes a number of critical factors in responding to the refugees, IDPs and migrants’ education: long term-presence, for contextual understanding; appreciating and responding to cultural factors; community involvement; engagement with Government; and championing the education rights of participant groups.

Across the initiatives explored, there is a notable holistic ‘4W approach’ – supporting head, heart, hands and home. This means, in different contexts, physical, emotional and educational needs; including extra-curricular as well as academic activities; supporting participants to secure identity cards or other documentation; and addressing parents’, families’ and community needs as well as those of direct participants.

2019 GEM reportMisean Cara projects often ‘fill the gap’ in education services that should be provided by states, where governments are unable or unwilling to do so, a trend noted in the 2018 Global Education Monitoring report: Migration, Displacement and Education: Building Bridges, Not Walls, launching in Dublin on 6 December.

The GEM report highlights, for example, in relation to Early Childhood Education and Care, how limited public ECEC activity means non-governmental organisations step in: “ECEC initiatives by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and Entreculturas reach thousands of refugee children in Chad, the Central African Republic, Lebanon and South Sudan.”

In refugee camps in Maban, South Sudan, Misean Cara funding is currently supporting JRS to provide vital education and psycho-social support, including ECEC, Basic Functional Adult Literacy and teacher training, to over 6,600 direct participants.

In South Africa, the Marist Brothers are managing a project with 325 out of school migrants and refugee children, which has successfully mainstreamed 98% of the children into state schools, where they receive ongoing support to complete their education. The Marists recently produced a resource for teachers in South Africa to provide lessons on xenophobia, human rights and migration to help shift attitudes and create a more inclusive environment for refugee and migrant children.

Out of the Box’s review (available here before long) has identified some practical approaches within Misean Cara-supported projects that others can replicate or scale up in supporting quality education for refugees, IDPs and migrants. These include effective approaches to integrating learners, model ‘school in a box’ resources, teaching local languages, addressing trauma through psycho-social and complementary therapy approaches, and addressing participants’ need for access to documentation.

The review recommends that Misean Cara: sustain its focus on relationships with governments; capture and communicate successful approaches; deepen collaborations across funded organisations; explore possibilities for tertiary education; seek to engage project alumni to support initiatives; and innovate further to address sustainability.

Sustainability is a clear challenge when education continues to be chronically underfunded, with a €32 billion annual financing gap – and just 0.5% spent in low-income countries (even though they have a roughly equal number of school-age children as higher income countries, identified in the 2019 GEM Report (Building Bridges, Not Walls).

Yet the missionary approach offers distinct advantages in consistently leveraging finances, personnel and expertise beyond formal donor arrangements, across boundaries and regions, and involving commitment for longer durations than most institutional donors entertain.

As Irish Aid, Global Partners in Education and other stakeholders ponder new directions – including for displaced populations, Misean Cara’s experience speaks particularly to the opportunities for understanding, peace and development that focusing on education for refugees, IDPs and migrants can bring.

There is a clear need to focus much more educational funding on low-income, conflict- and emergency-affected countries, who are least able to address systemic strains yet often receive a disproportionate share of people on the move as global arrangements for fair and dignified mobility fail to deliver for refugees, IDPs and migrants.

With their long-term presence, commitment, global reach, expertise and holistic approach, missionaries in development look forward to being part of the conversation – and the solutions – as Irish Aid, Global Partners in Education and other stakeholders plot the way to better educational inclusion and experiences, together with life outcomes for refugees, IDPs and migrants.

Photo caption: Brickfield school classes take place right beside the Brickfields on the outskirts of Kolkata city in West Bengal. Misean Cara support through the Loreto Sisters provided training for 30 teachers; health camps to monitor children’s health; and a local advocacy campaign on education targeted to mothers. Photo: Out of the Box.

Watch the 2019 GEM Report Animation video.