UNICEF: 41,000 Refugee Children Have No Access To Formal Education In Malaysia

"All children, regardless of status, should have the opportunity to learn in school, in safety and without fear."

Cover image via UNICEF Malaysia (Facebook) & AFP/New Straits Times

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Malaysia must urgently address the lack of education access for refugee and stateless children in the country, said UNICEF

On World Refugee Day yesterday, 20 June, UNICEF Malaysia said none of the 41,000 school-age refugee children registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia have access to formal education.

The humanitarian aid organisation pointed out that only 34% of these children have access to informal education through alternative learning centres in the country.

"Education is a fundamental right, yet too many refugee and stateless children are not in school.

"Excluded from the education system, children are left without recognised credentials, social networks, mentors, or peer support," the UN agency said.

UNICEF stressed that refugee and stateless children are denied the opportunity to live dignified lives or reach their full potential

"Additionally, their lack of legal status also puts them at risk of arrest and detention," it said.

As of September 2023, more than 1,400 girls and boys were reportedly held in immigration detention centres in Malaysia, according to UNICEF's data.

"All children, regardless of status, should have the opportunity to learn in school, in safety and without fear," the organisation emphasised.

The organisation called on the Malaysian government to uphold the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The international human rights treaty calls for non-discrimination in upholding a child's rights to life, survival, and development.

UNICEF also called for the strengthening of inclusive national systems to ensure that all children, regardless of their circumstances, have access to education, healthcare, and social protection.

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