Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has proposed the establishment of an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) refugee education foundation to design, facilitate and develop intervention in all relevant areas for the education of refugees.
Speaking at the 8th OIC-Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) International Seminar in Sepang today, he said these include identifying existing institutions, both public and private, at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, where refugee students can be enrolled.
"School complexes for refugee students, including assets, furniture, equipment, students' transportation and accommodation; well-rounded and appropriate curriculum that is integrated and balanced that ensures quality education," he added.
Saifuddin also underlined the need for accreditation and international recognition of certification; scholarships for refugee students; teachers' training and career development, including for refugee teachers; and bridging courses and tutoring to support refugee students.
Other areas include legal matters such as passports and immigration documentation, refugee cards, and student visas to ensure there are no administrative barriers for refugee student enrolment.
He said the foundation could also facilitate partnerships with NGOs working with refugees in OIC countries to ensure protection and assistance services for refugee students and their families.
"Such a foundation, led by the OIC, is urgently needed and would give refugee children and youth the possibility of transforming from being a 'lost generation' to becoming leaders and contributors to the future, to build their nations when wars end or to contribute to the development of their new host countries," he said.
Saifuddin said he hoped his proposal would be included in the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Rights and Access to Education for Refugees to be read by IPHRC chairman Haci Ali Acikgul at the end of the seminar tomorrow.
According to statistics by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Saifuddin said as of the end of 2021 there were approximately 27.1 million refugees and 4.6 million asylum seekers worldwide.
According to Unesco, he said, 50% of refugees and asylum seekers in the global population are individuals under the age of 18. However, due to several factors, most of them do not have proper access to education.
In order to provide education for refugees, Saifuddin said host countries would need strong political will, thoughtful policy planning and adequate resources.
"As one of the countries that temporarily hosts refugees, we admit that there is still much to be done in providing education for refugees in this country," he said.
As of August, only 44% (5,046) of refugee children in Malaysia were enrolled in primary education, and 16% (874) of refugee youth were enrolled in secondary education, he said.
The 8th OIC-IPHRC International Seminar themed "Islamic Perspectives on the Protection of Refugees - Rights and Access to Education" was attended by approximately 200 participants including delegates and observers from over 40 countries.