UNHCR AGC Panama | Thematic Notes | 2021: Education – Gateway to a sustainable future for forcibly displaced people – Trinidad and Tobago

Education as a protective mechanism can

  • Keep children safe from exploitation and child abuse.

  • Avoid the recruitment of children and youth by gangs or other criminal organizations.

  • Reduce the risks of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), teenage pregnancy and child marriage.

  • Provide safe spaces for children and youth to learn and grow with their peers.

  • Promote social integration and peaceful coexistence.

  • Support the development of livelihoods, self-reliance and resilience.

The context

Forced displacement creates a barrier to children’s access to education in new communities or countries. Administrative, linguistic, cultural and practical barriers often make it difficult for displaced children to enroll or stay in school in Central America and the Caribbean.

In addition to this, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the closure of schools, non-formal learning programs, after-school centers and universities in all countries under the Panama Cluster Office (MCO). Three in five children in the world who lost a school year during the pandemic live in Latin America and the Caribbean. On average, schools in the region were completely closed for 158 days from March 2020 to February 2021, far more than the global estimate (95 days). The most vulnerable children and young people, and those who cannot access distance education are more likely to never return to school, and even to become at risk of marriage and / or child labor, recruitment into gangs, GBV and teenage pregnancy. To mitigate the impact of school closures, governments are working to increase access to quality distance education and are urgently starting to implement blended learning models. Yet refugees and other displaced populations have had to prioritize other life-threatening needs in their spending plans.

Education is fundamentally protective. Lack of access to education exacerbates vulnerabilities and risks for displaced children and youth. For refugees and asylum seekers, education is the way to rebuild their lives. Early childhood programs and preschool education enhance development and build psycho-emotional resilience. Primary and secondary education levels enhance literacy and build other relevant skills and capacities. Completion of these levels of studies facilitates access to technical or higher education, which is the springboard to employment. In addition, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) further supports the development of livelihoods, self-reliance and socio-economic resilience. Finally, language training promotes social integration and access to services, including lower level education for children and young people.

UNHCR therefore attaches great importance to the inclusion of internally displaced children and youth in national education systems. In this sense, UNHCR advocates for States’ commitment to give refugee children and youth access to the full range of educational opportunities – from preschool to college, as well as TVET and non-formal education leading to recognized certification, at the same level of nationals. Supporting and strengthening educational opportunities for displaced and local children and youth in all countries; to build stronger and more inclusive communities.


In Aruba and Curacao, UNHCR supported 78 Venezuelan children through back-to-school cash assistance programs, which included tuition and insurance fees, school supplies and transportation costs.

In Guyana, UNHCR provided English as a Second Language (ESL) courses to 286 refugees and migrants, and assisted 28 students with school materials, including digital devices for access to distance education. In addition, 34 teachers received training on language teaching methodology and the development of academic material through capacity building workshops.

In early 2021, UNHCR and its partners trained 100 teachers in Panama in psycho-emotional tools for the gradual return to school and to support children and their families in this process. In addition, 70 children received tablets to facilitate access to distance or mixed education, and 75 families received cash interventions for school supplies.

In Trinidad and Tobago, more than 1,050 refugees, asylum seekers and other eligible children access accredited distance education services through Equal Place (EP). In July 2021, UNHCR delivered 400 tablets to support the EP online modality and facilitate access and daily participation for all children.

Financial gaps

With additional funding and support, UNHCR could strengthen access to regular, quality learning opportunities that help children and adults to learn, thrive and develop their potential, build individual resilience and collective and to contribute to peaceful coexistence.

UNHCR seeks to support governments and foster the conditions, partnerships, collaboration and approaches that lead refugees, asylum seekers, other displaced people and their host communities to access education and training inclusive in national systems. These include primary, secondary and higher education; and vocational training programs that lead to certified access to vocational education and TVET.

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