This paper argues that access to quality education and skills development programs for refugees, returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is not only one of the fundamental human rights that states and non-state actors have obligations to fulfill; it is also an integral part of sustainable development efforts which will have significant contributions to socio-economic transformation in host countries, countries of origin and countries of destinations in the event that refugees become migrant, which is sometimes the case. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region, consisting of eight member states, namely, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, host more than 13 million forcibly displaced people. This results from protracted and devastating conflicts; drought and famine and other natural or man-made calamities. Within the IGAD region, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan produce 80 to 90% of displacement due to protracted civil wars. However, almost all the member states have refugees, IDPs or migrants sheltered in their territories. Access to higher education among refugees, returnees and IDPs is very low at only 3% compared to 36% globally. The figure for Africa is still dismal, at less than 1%; and the same holds true for the IGAD region. In an effort to address this major challenge facing these population categories, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) convened a high level regional (Ministerial Conference) on refugee education held in Djibouti, 12-14 December 2017. That Conference adopted what is now called the Djibouti declaration and Plan of Action for refugee education in the IGAD region. The major purpose of this paper was is to outline the refugee situations in general and the state of higher education in the region in particular.
Key words: Higher education, refugees, returnees, host communities, Djibouti declaration, sustainable development.
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