Helping refugee children reach for their dreams

USA for UNHCR donors ensure access to education and a future for refugee children


Does the refugee boy who says “I will be a doctor” know that his dreams are farther from his reach every day he isn’t in school? In addition to the traumatic experience of being forced from his home, the perilous journey to safety puts his dreams at risk.

Refugee children leave everything behind to escape with their lives, and still they hold onto their dreams — but without an education, those dreams will never become a reality.

Once a refugee child reaches safety and her immediate needs, like clean water, food and shelter, have been met, the long-term needs become clear. Without an education, refugees fall behind and struggle to catch up.

South Sudanese refugee children in a math class at the Ofonze Primary School in Bidibidi refugee settlement.

UNHCR — the UN Refugee Agency — knows how critical education is for refugee girls and boys. Along with the stability and sense of normalcy it provides, access to education is an essential building block for a better life. It protects children from exploitation, abuse and child marriage. It boosts their confidence and improves their future job prospects. Just as important, it keeps their dreams alive.

Here are three young people who are pursuing their studies and planning for their futures. Thanks to generous donor support, they are among thousands of refugee children and youth heading off to school today.


Asma'a Adnan Saied, 23, fled Dara'a, Syria, in 2012 with her family. Thanks to a DAFI scholarship, she is in her first year of English Literature at nearby Al-Albayt University.

Asma’a was a college student in Damascus, Syria, when she and her family were forced to flee in 2012. There was no money to continue her education until four years later, when she was awarded a UNHCR scholarship. “Receiving the scholarship was a huge relief. [It] means that I’ll have a brighter future. For me and my family. And for the next generation of Syrians.”

"Receiving the scholarship was a huge relief.
[It] means that I’ll have a brighter future."

Asma’a is one of more than 8,000 refugee students in 42 countries who have received UNHCR college scholarships. Her future is so much brighter thanks to this support, but only 1% of refugees attend college compared to 34% of non-refugees.


Five-years-old Saba is an Afghan refugee. She loves attending school, mingling with friends and writing all the new things she learns at school on her notebook.

Five-year-old Saba, an Afghan refugee, is a first-grade student attending one of 127 UNHCR-supported schools educating nearly 35,000 children in her province. Thanks to donor support, Saba has a uniform and school supplies. She loves school, her friends and writing down everything she learns in her notebook.

One of the most effective ways to address gender inequality is providing girls with access to education. Through their generosity, USA for UNHCR donors give refugees girls like Saba the chance to live up to their full potential.


Fifteen-year-old Ishak, a refugee from Myanmar's Rakhai State took advantage of educational opportunities offered by UNHCR, NGOs and local Malaysian communities to become a straight-A student, a local soccer star and train as a barista in a local cafe.

Fifteen-year-old Ishak is a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar. While many refugee boys his age drop out of school to get jobs, Ishak’s family has made the financial sacrifices to keep this teenager focused on his education. He is one of more than 21,000 young refugees in Malaysia who attend UNHCR-supported learning centers. A straight-A student, Ishak excels in math, physics and accounting. He is also a star soccer player!

Only 50% of refugee children attend elementary school and fewer than one in four reaches high school like Ishak has. With donor support, UNHCR will ensure that more refugees have the chance to learn.

Here’s how you can help …

Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than other children — but you have the power to close that gap. Make a brighter future possible for the millions of children who will fall behind without access to a quality education. Become USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor today.


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