Sad plight of Afghan refugee children in Pakistan

Pakistan hosts around 2.8 million Afghan refugees, the second biggest refugee population after Syrians in Turkey

Jun 21, 2021
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Afghan refugee children in Pakistan

Pakistan hosts around 2.8 million Afghan refugees, the second biggest refugee population after Syrians in Turkey. Most of them live in tribal areas of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan region. However, there is no easy access to education for the children of these refugees.

Lack of educational facilities, poverty, and indifference from the parents are keeping these children away from accessing education. Around half a million refugees live in southern Sindh. In 2006, Syed Mustafa, also an Afghan refugee, founded a school for refugee children in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth area. A Pashtun-dominated locality, known as Afghan Basti, has around 20 camps housing over 250,000 refugees. 

Still, 60 percent of children from the camps don’t attend schools, Mustafa was quoted as saying by Turkish newswire Anadolu Agency. The area has around 20 Islamic seminaries. Just over 350 children attend his school. Most parents don’t send their children to schools due to their conservative beliefs. 

He warns that uneducated children in a hostile environment could be recruited for crime and militancy. Already, local authorities are worried as many Afghan children are being by criminal gangs operating in Karachi. 

“Five schools for a population of over 250,000 are not even worth mentioning. These children are our future, but they are either forced to scavenge, work as child laborers, or just wander around to kill their time," Mustafa said. 

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 65 percent of 1.4 million registered refugees are below the age of 25. 

The UN agency also runs several educational and skill development programs for refugee children and youth across Pakistan. “They deserve to be educated and skilled for the future of Afghanistan,” Qaisar Khan Afridi, a UNHCR spokesman, was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency.

“Youngsters are the agents of change if an empowered and skilled young generation - both men and women - return to Afghanistan, they can better work for the restructuring of their country," Qaisar said. However, he acknowledges the present condition isn’t conducive for their return. 

Already, in absence of education, many Afghan refugees living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan region join Afghan Taliban.

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