Education and Migration Interlinking
There are 87 million displaced people in the world: 25 million refugees, 3 million asylum-seekers, 40 million internally displaced due to conflict, and 19 million displaced due to natural disasters. Their vulnerability is worsened when they are deprived of education. Education can also affect migration and displacement. It is a major driver in the decision to migrate. It is also key to providing citizens with critical understanding, promoting cohesive societies, and fighting prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination.
Migration to urban centers increases with education, while migrants at the extremes of the education distribution tend to move abroad. Unemployment, skilled work opportunities, and incomes in urban and international locations are the cause of migration. Rural individuals have higher expected income gains from education because they face worse income prospects when remaining uneducated than urban individuals. However, getting an education is also more costly for the former: due to fewer schools in rural regions, the direct schooling cost is larger.
Education is also a critical path to integrate into society and the best investment in sustainable development. It provides migrant children with opportunities for their advancement as well as a chance to contribute both to their country of residence and, in many cases, eventually also to their country of origin. In the words of António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, “Education is a human right and a transformational force for poverty eradication, sustainability, and peace. People on the move, whether for work or education, and whether voluntarily or forced, do not leave their right to education behind.”
People move for a variety of reasons. Internal migrants move within a country, usually in one direction, from village to town. International migrants move across country borders to work, either with authorization from the host country or without the documents required under immigration laws and rules to enter, reside or work abroad. Undocumented ones have no right to access health care or education. In many countries, fears of unsustainable urbanization and rural-urban imbalances have prompted policies to curb such migration. In some cases, the threat of deportation keeps children out of school. Governments are often reluctant to invest in education infrastructure in slums because their inhabitants settled on land they did not own which in turn limits the availability of schools.
Parent migration had a significant negative impact on education outcomes, which was somewhat alleviated by parents’ return, especially among secondary students and girls. In China, children with absent mothers had lower grades in mathematics, Chinese, and English. They also had symptoms of depression. Seasonal labor migration is a survival strategy for poor rural populations around the world. It can disrupt education and expose children to child labor and workplace hazards. They might have to leave school to work. Lack of language proficiency is also an educational disadvantage. Proficiency facilitates socialization, relationship-building, and a sense of belonging. Lack of proficiency results in an increase in the risk of discrimination, bullying, and low self-esteem.
Governments must protect refugees’ right to education, no matter their identification documents or residence status. Committees and clubs should be organized to make the migrants familiar with the new culture and develop a sense of belonging.