27.09.2004 Education

UNHCR Education Forum opens

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Accra, Sept. 27, GNA - A three-day regional meeting dubbed "Innovative Strategic Partnerships in Refugee Education" (INSPIRE) in support of Liberian refugees and returnees in West Africa opened in Accra with a call on all stakeholders to make efforts to enhance the education of refugee children in the Sub-Region.

The meeting is one of the series the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) would be organising nationwide to identify and address key issues of education for Liberian refugees in host countries in the Sub-Region and returnees upon return to their home areas.

Mr Thomas Albrecht, UNHCR Representative in Ghana, said education was an important value in itself, but the real value lied in the opportunity for Liberian children and children of the host communities in and around refugee hosting areas to have the doors to the future opened.

"For some it will pave the way for them to become the competent leaders of tomorrow and for all it will ensure that they have the basis for judging their leaders and for taking part in the democratic and peaceful development that the region and all people living in it need and deserve.

"Every day a child misses out in school is a bad day. It is a bad day for the child; it is a bad day for Liberia; it is a bad day for the Region," he said.

Mr Albrecht said the best efforts spent towards enhancing the education of refugee children today, were the best investment in peace, security, stability and prosperity.

He expressed the hope that the meeting would assist in improving strategic cooperation among partners and implementing successful innovative approaches to refugee education.

Mr Akilaja O. Akiwumi, Chairman of Ghana Refugee Board, said limited funds and lack of understanding of governments on the need to educate refugee children had led to low level of education among them. He said Ghana was doing her best in educating refugee children but lack of accommodation was hindering her efforts to enrol many more children.

Mr Akiwumi announced that 70,000 dollars assistance from the Italian Government was given to the Board for the provision of classroom blocks at Bujumbura Refugee Camp in the Central Region.

The international community, at the World Education Forum in Dakar, in 2000, committed itself to 'ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances (including those affected by wars) and those belonging to ethnic minorities, hade access to and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality, he said.

The meeting brought together stakeholders within the Sub-Region including Government officials, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), UN, Refugee Leaders, Private Sector, Bilateral and Multilateral Institutions from Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia, Ghana and Germany and from Geneva.

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