Why Many Refugee Children Don’t Attend School

Nineveh Plain – These boys are doing what boys do best…hang out together.

Kids just want to be kids! They don’t know that their future will require them to make important life decisions and for millions of refugee children, most likely find a way just to survive.

The clock starts ticking the moment God gives them life. Refugee children will learn

Refugees have had to leave their home due to war and violence. These kids struggle with physical and emotional scars that will never leave them.

With little to no psychological help, these children will face a much tougher FUTURE unless several things happen, and much of it boils down to whether or not they receive education:

CHILDREN NEED TO ATTEND PRIMARY SCHOOL: These formative years shape children’s views of themselves, their family and the world. During primary school, children should learn to read and write and develop basic math skills to name just a few critical foundations. In third world countries, many children struggle just to get in the door of a primary school to start their education.
Refugee children face even more obstacles to the education they deserve. They must learn to read and write in their native language and then they most likely will need to learn to speak, read and write in another one to three additional languages of their host countries just to make a passing grade!

CHILDREN MUST HAVE A CHANCE TO STAY IN SCHOOL AND GRADUATE: More unsettling stats: The enrollment rate for refugee children in secondary level for 2019-2020 stood only at 34%*.

HOW MANY REFUGEE CHILDREN ATTEND SCHOOL? From March 2019 to March 2020, enrollment at the primary level for refugees was at 68% according to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). This is compilation of data on 40 countries*.


In 1989, delegates at the Convention on the Rights of the Child defined this right. The foundation for this and other vital issues key to refugees and their rights are outlined in the UNHCR 1951 document, Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. 

Iraq – Majd (not his real name) is of the boys in IMI’s Child Sponsorship Program who lives in a refugee camp. Without an education, his future is very bleak. He needs our help to stay in school.


In Iraq this is a well known, and many of the 18-20 year old refugees and IDPS (internally displaced persons) are functionally illiterate.


IMI team members tirelessly work with children in our Child Sponsorship Program encouraging the children with their school work.  IMI also helps and encourages young adults in the Middle East to go back and graduate even though it’s a tough road it will open doors for jobs. 

A high school diploma has a strong value in the United States, just think about what the implications are for a young person who has no country? As a refugee, his or her future is already at high risk!

WHAT HAPPENS TO REFUGEE CHILDREN WHO DROP OUT OF SCHOOL EARLY? Illiteracy and poor education open the wrong doors in any country. Doors that often lead to drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, exploitation, sex trafficking and recruitment by terrorist organizations. Doors that also slam shut to a future of hope, further education and job opportunities to be able to climb out of poverty.


When Johan (not his real name) heard he would be drafted into the Syrian military in 2021, he along with the rest of his family fled to N. Iraq. Young Christian recruits are often assigned to the front lines in the ongoing civil war in Syria and their odds of becoming casualties is high.

The new surroundings of N. Iraq were tough initially but Johan was outgoing and soon was enjoying new friendships. He hadn’t been able to finish high school but that wasn’t on his mind because he soon began making money selling drugs. He reasoned he could now help his family, but he had no idea how complicated his life was about to become.

It started out innocently enough, just try this, try that, take this to a friend. But soon he was handed cash for a deal and he was neck deep in trouble. Just days later, he was arrested and imprisoned.

As a foreign national with incorrect documentation, he was detained with no notice to his family. Dealing or taking illegal drugs in N. Iraq carries severe consequences; zero tolerance. His parents desperately tried to find out what had happened to their son. He had just disappeared and no one was talking. Was he alive? Who had kidnapped him? Had he been beaten? Weeks later he was given a phone call and his mother dropped to her knees as she heard her son’s voice, “Mother, I’m alright.”

He is still in prison and his family is waiting news. Meanwhile, the immigration status to another country they had been waiting for came through but they refused to leave their son in prison. So now they sit in a small, dirty room waiting for his sentence. Unfortunately, his story is not isolated. The need to make money out of desperation leads to foolish choices. An education won’t solve every problem, but it does help many young refugees with literacy they need to source jobs.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES ARE A HUGE PART OF THE SOLUTION!! Education of refugee children is multi-faceted, yet one basic fact remains: A child who has access to a school and no access to school supplies will not receive an education.

Even the most caring teachers turn children away from their classrooms because the child does not have school supplies. Most public schools in the Middle East do not have text books; the children must have a way to write the lessons down.

A backpack filled with school supplies means a child’s parents can send them to school even though they may be illiterate themselves. Their child will have a chance for a better future!

Indigenous Ministries has been helping children with backpacks and school supplies since 1998. We began in India and are now also working in the Middle East with thousands of refugee and internally displaced children.

We also work with children who are not refugees or IDPS – children who are impoverished and whose families otherwise would have no means to send their children to school.  

HOW YOU CAN HELP: IMI national teams do all the work on the ground and all we ask of you is that you consider a gift to help 1, 2 or 10 children! Suggested amount is $85/child.

We need folks to generously donate monies to the
Backpack and School Supplies Fundraiser!

Will you help?

These kids in IMI’s Egypt Child Sponsorship Program are in school because of generous sponsors and donors to the Backpack Fundraiser!

Fadi, IMI’s N. Iraq team lead, is a backpack wholesaler expert!

HOW MUCH? Suggested amount is $85 per child. This covers a backpack filled with school supplies. Supplies include pencils, pens, notebooks (most schools do not have school books and the children write the lessons in these thin notebooks), erasers, glue, safe scissors, colored pencils or crayons, etc. Supplies vary per country and area. Your $85 also helps provide a school uniform.

SHOULD I MAIL A BACKPACK TO IRAQ? No, it is more cost effective for IMI teams to purchase supplies wholesale in-country. Why not put the postage money to work with another backpack? We also like to support local businesses since Indigenous Ministries teams are ever present in these communities; this speaks volumes of our commitment to the community. IMI teams purchase all backpacks and school supplies overseas and the children receive the backpack in person. Vouchers to local shops are provided for school uniforms. This amount also covers transportation and distribution expenses.

PLEASE DONATE TODAY – WHY WAIT? THE NEED IS URGENT! We distribute most of the backpacks in the fall of each year, when school starts, but new refugees arrive weekly and we always have thousands of children outside our Child Sponsorship Program in need. Your monies donated to this fund will be used for this purpose.

Is $85 too much? Then please give what you can. Your gift will matter to the child who puts his or her brand new backpack on with pride.

Donate today as generous an amount as you are able. Your gift will change the life of a child in the Middle East this year!

Thank you for caring for us!!! 

Learn more about sponsoring a child through Indigenous Ministries here. We’ve helped thousands of children since 1998 and love doing so!