Angelita Kingston (Group 6)
Can the experience of being uprooted by force encourage people to invest in portable assets such as education?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than 65 million people are currently displaced from their home regions as a result of interstate wars, civil conflict, or natural disasters. The trauma of forced migration leaves deep scars in the memory of those who have experienced it. Furthermore, this trauma can then resonate through subsequent generations and leave diverse and unexpected footprints across the lives of the descendants of those first forced from their homes (Becker, S. et al, 2020).
Children and youth affected by forced displacement are particularly vulnerable to losing their right to
quality education. A recent report by UNHCR on refugee education globally shows staggering
numbers: refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children.
There are around six million school-age refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. Only half of them access
primary education and 22 percent of refugee adolescents have the opportunity to attend lower
secondary education (G20, 2017). Academic economists have long entertained the idea that being uprooted by force or expropriated increases the subjective value of investing in portable assets, in particular in education (e.g. Brenner and Kiefer 1981).
In his bestselling autobiographical novel A Tale of Love and Darkness, Amos Oz gives a testimony about his Aunt Sonia: Why is she a road sweeper? So as to keep two talented daughters at university… Food – they save on. Clothes – they save on those too. Accommodation – they all share a single room. All so that the studies and textbooks they won’t be short. They believed that education was an investment for the future, the only thing that no one can ever take away from your children, even if, Heaven forbid, there’s another war, another revolution, more discriminatory laws—your diploma you can always fold up quickly, hide it in the seams of your clothes, and run away to wherever you are allowed to live (Oz, 2005, p. 172).
While the international aid community does consider education as an important factor in reducing economic and social marginalization of refugees (G20 2017, UNICEF 2017), studies suggest that the benefits of providing schooling for forced migrants and their children may be even greater, and more persistent, than previously thought.
Becker, S. and Ferrara, A., 2019. Consequences of forced migration: A survey of recent findings. Labour Economics 59: 1–16.
Becker, S. et al, 2020. A silver lining of forced migration: Investment in education. https://voxeu.org/article/silver-lining-forced-migration-investment-education
G20 (2017) Theory and Policy – Education, Refugees and Development. Policy Brief
Oz, A (2005), A Tale of Love and Darkness. Vintage Books, NY City, USA.
UNICEF (2017), Education Uprooted: For Every Migrant, Refugee and Displaced Child, Education, UNICEF.