29 October 2021

This month, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Kombou Boly Barry, published a report on the right to education of migrants. The report considers the barriers that migrants face in accessing the right to education and calls upon States to revisit their legislations to ensure migrants have a rightful place in education and development policies.   

Presenting her report to the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur sought the attention of the State parties on the various issues faced by migrants, including  the acts of the discrimination in all its forms, lack of infrastructure, difficulty in accessing public education systems, exclusion, restrictive migration legislation, segregation in education, lack of documentation such as school records, and the lack of mechanisms allowing data collection.

The full report is available here. It highlights the range of additional vulnerabilities faced by  child migrants, girls, women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ+, and persons in detention. Furthermore, it contains details relating to migration and Early Childhood Care and Education (paragraph 33):

“Migrants in early childhood care and education. While access to quality early childhood care and education is inadequate globally, opportunities are drastically restricted for migrant children. Pre-primary education of young migrant children has been severely neglected in migrant response strategies and policies.  A study indicates that countrywide responses to the early childhood care and education needs of young refugee and asylum-seeking children have been extraordinarily weak, despite the legal obligation in most countries to serve this population, and that national responsibility and accountability are largely lacking.”

For more information on the relationship between migration and ECCE, see our brief addressing the limitations of current legal frameworks.

The report goes on to analyse legal frameworks to provide a series of recommendations presented in line with the 4As framework - Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability, and Adaptability. 

During her presentation, the Special Rapporteur highlighted the interdependence of the right to education with other issues, and the extent to which the realisation of the right to education depends upon the fulfilment of basic needs such as housing, transport, material sustenance, and connectivity. 

She further emphasised the need to nurture the values of multiculturalism, diversity, recognition and ownership of cultural identity, and rejection of all forms discrimination. Highlighting the importance of inclusive education, she called upon states to provide space for civil society to continue research and provide education for the vulnerable, while supporting teachers who come from migrant backgrounds. 

Citing pedagogical theorist Paolo Freire, the UN Special Rapporteur insisted that the uniquely human activity of teaching and learning must be based on political, ethical and epistemological principles. She also stressed the need to develop a coherent social vision, upheld by tangible policies, in order to meet the challenges faced by migrant learners worldwide. In response to questions by state representatives, the UN Special Rapporteur highlighted the importance of adapting and changing societal structures that inhibit migrant learners from exercising their right to education, and to envision peaceful, coexistent human societies in which all identities are respected.

The full video of the UN Special Rapporteur’s presentation of her report and questions from state representatives can be found here.

Consult the report in English, Spanish and French. For more information about these topics, see our pages on the right to education of migrants and early childhood care and education.