Angelina Jolie has pleaded with governments worldwide to invest in education for refugees during the coronavirus pandemic.
The actress and humanitarian warned that disruption to schooling during the global health crisis could become permanent for refugee children, during a Unesco and UNHCR conference on Monday.
Jolie is a special envoy for UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.
Covid-19 is proving to be an incredible catalyst for science and discovery and innovationAngelina Jolie
Speaking virtually to refugees who have benefited from education aid, and education ministers from Cameroon, Pakistan and Kenya, she urged governments to use “amazing new technologies to support distance learning” to bridge the “very real digital divide” between countries.
“Covid-19 is proving to be an incredible catalyst for science and discovery and innovation,” she said.
“If we could do the same for education – harnessing new technologies with the power of government and private sector funding, and the energy and the drive of millions of talented young people – it would be one of the greatest single inoculations imaginable against poverty and the denial of rights worldwide.”
Around 1.5 billion children in more than 150 countries are out of school, compared with around 260 million worldwide before the coronavirus crisis.
Jolie added: “To my mind, there’s one fundamental question in this, because of how the world so often speaks of refugees: do we allow them to regard refugees as a burden, or do we help them see they are individuals with huge potential who, if given the tools, can develop their minds, contribute to society and help stabilise their home countries?
“To me there is only one answer: there is no better investment we could make.”
The Prime Minister’s special envoy for girls’ education, Baroness Liz Sugg, also announced a £5.3 million investment in UK aid to support the salaries of more than 5,000 teachers in 10 of the world’s poorest refugee-hosting countries over the next seven months.
It is hoped the support will help at least 300,000 vulnerable refugee children continue their education.
Speaking at the virtual round-table, Baroness Sugg said: “This funding will ensure that children can continue to benefit from education during school closures, and will mean teachers can provide vital outreach to get children back to school once they reopen.
“We know that supporting every child’s right to 12 years of quality education is one of the best investments we can make to end the cycle of displacement, poverty and conflict as we recover from coronavirus.”
She added the UK will be supporting Unicef’s Open Up Better campaign along with “many other efforts” to get children back to school.