Education services in the Sahrawi refugee camps are led by the Sahrawi education department and education support services are implemented by AFAD, funded by UNHCR. The Algerian education curriculum is used in Sahrawi schools in the camps. The education system encompasses pre-school and learning activities in more than 31 kindergartens reaching around 8,113 children aged three to six. At the age of six, children then follow their education in 27 primary schools, with around 22,125 students enrolled in the camps. At the age of 12 to 15, children are enrolled in the nine lower secondary schools. Around 7,001 were enrolled (52% girls - 48% boys) inside the camps and 1,562 in the lower secondary schools in Algeria (outside the camps). For children 16-17 years, they are also enrolled in upper secondary schools across various Algerian cities, with around 6,338 students in the academic year 2018-19. In order to follow their secondary schooling, children mostly leave their families to attend schools throughout Algeria, although there is one Spanish-language secondary school (Simon Bolivar) near Smara camp. While there is an approximate 98% attendance rate of children at primary school and lower secondary school, there is only a 71% pass rate from primary to lower secondary, 56% from lower-secondary to secondary, and only 52% successfully completed the final grade of upper secondary education. In total there are an estimated 44,300 children of school-going age in the operation (aged between 5-17 years) and an estimated 8,851 who have dropped out of school according to the Department of Education.
According to the AGD/PA exercise of 2018 a number of key challenges were raised, including; the increase in drop-out from intermediate schools (grades 3 - 4) after these levels were forced to move to Algerian schools due to a chronic lack of resources. The low incentive payment system for teachers caused a high turnover of staff. The poor educational facilities (e.g. ageing buildings built in the 1980s, broken furniture, lack of toilets etc.) as well as the widespread shortage in educational materials (e.g. one textbook to three students, insufficient teacher guides, IT equipment, uniforms, etc.); language barrier for upper-secondary (moving from Spanish to French); overcrowded classrooms, and limited school feeding (e.g. only milk/biscuits). In addition, a study completed by UNICEF in 2018 noted around 40% of WASH facilities in schools were not functioning and as high as 65% of the 36 primary and intermediate schools required rehabilitation or new construction. Concerning secondary education, there is a lack of transportation means to return home in the summer. For tertiary education, while students have access to Algerian universities for free, the costs of living are too high for many families. UNHCR provides DAFI scholarships for 142 Sahrawi students; however, the need is estimated at triple this number.
A comprehensive response to the education needs is outlined under the six primary and secondary education outputs below, and will require a significant multi-year investment in order to make a discernible impact. As agreed with education stakeholders, given the 2020 budget limitations a prioritized response to the education needs requires the following core activities; (1) Reviewing the incentives system for the MoE staff (1,719 persons); (2) Procuring the total number of books for students (one child/one book); (3) Provision of student’s furniture; and (4) Provision of teacher materials and guides. These prioritized needs for UNHCR’s contribution are complementary to the interventions of UNICEF and WFP, as well as other donors who play an important role in the provision of other priority activities. In addition a joint education sector strategy will be developed by all relevant stakeholders that will be utilized to enhance services and better advocate for resources.