Every year, James Madison High School buzzes with excitement of the new school year. With junior year fast approaching, we are excited to dive back into our studies, and one of our favorite activities is going back to school shopping. We love choosing binders and matching notebooks and buying the latest innovation in the pen world (this year it’s erasable pens). But it also makes us think of the millions of refugee children who are denied an education. Children who won’t have the opportunity to learn basic math or reading skills. Children who won’t learn linear functions or about World War II, even though many of these kids are living in the world’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
Today 65 million people globally are displaced from their home, and of these 65 million displaced people, 50 percent of them are under the age of 18. With the average refugee staying in exile for 20 years, many of these refugee children will live out their childhood away from home and school. Globally, the enrollment rate for primary school is 90 percent, but for refugee children it is 50 percent and that number drops dramatically with only 22 percent of refugee children being able to enroll in secondary school.
Education makes it easier for people to rebuild their lives and communities. It offers psychological stability and more economic opportunities. In particular, refugee girls, are the most vulnerable when not educated. These girls are more likely to be victims of sexual assault, be a child bride, fall victim to extremist ideology, and have less socioeconomic opportunities. We see when girls are educated they are more likely to have leadership positions whether it be in politics, business, or tech. Educated women are better able to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. When refugee children, especially girls, have access to education they can start to build more peaceful and prosperous communities.
This cause is close to our heart because we have always had access to a top quality education. Education was never a question mark in our life. Our school is filled with advanced placement classes, clean facilities, and amazing science labs. We have supportive parents and amazing resources at the touch of a button, but these resources aren’t available to everyone around the world. We want to change that, and we know Congressman Gerry Connolly does too.
We are proud of Congressman Connolly for cosponsoring H.R. 2408, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act. By giving refugee children, especially girls, an education, we are allowing them to find their voice in their community.
Girl Up helped us develop a voice and passion for advocating on behalf of underprivileged girls. Developing a voice in a community is crucial for advancing in not just school, but in life.
Representative Connolly, one of the many cosponsors of H.R. 2408, is, “Glad to cosponsor H.R. 2408, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act, which would authorize the Secretary of State and the USAID Administrator to prioritize efforts to support access to primary and secondary education for displaced children. As the proud father of a young woman and a 14-year-veteran of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, I understand the importance of a safe and well-rounded education. It is critical to ensure that children, particularly girls, displaced by conflicts overseas are able to receive a quality education and that the educational needs of women and girls are considered when developing and implementing U.S. foreign assistance policies.”
Our Girl Up club and many community members commend Congressman Connolly’s efforts in co-sponsoring this important bipartisan legislation. This legislation will help refugee girls have a voice and become leaders in their community. After all, an educated society is a more prosperous and free society.
Nehal Jan and Madeleine Mai are the president and vice president of Girls United Madison club.