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Syrian refugees 'may be a lost generation'

09 May 2014


Trying to catch up: Syrian children in a school in Ain Kfar Zabad, in Lebanon, run by Global Care

Trying to catch up: Syrian children in a school in Ain Kfar Zabad, in Lebanon, run by Global Care

SYRIA'S children are at risk of becoming a "lost generation", the UN has warned, as fewer than a quarter of those who are refugees in Lebanon are enrolled in public education.

Last month, the UN reported that the number of Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon had exceeded one million. It warned that the country, which had shown "striking generosity", was "already stretched to breaking point". Syrian refugees now represent almost a quarter of the population, and the number of Syrian schoolchildren in the country is expected to double by the end of 2014 to 700,000.

Ross Mountain, the acting UN resident and humanitarian co-ordinator in Lebanon, said that it was "imperative that the international community helps bear the brunt of pressure on Lebanon".

Christian charities are seeking to help. "All the children we are teaching had been without schooling for at least a year, some many years more," said one British charity worker, who is teaching 15 children in Lebanon, this month.

The project is supported by Middle East Christian Outreach (MECO), an international interdenominational agency that works with churches in the region. Itis approved by the Lebanese government. Fifteen children, aged four to 12, attend the education centre, in the Sunday-school rooms of a church, from Monday to Thursday, learning Arabic, English, and maths in three 50-minute periods every day. There are four teachers.

Canon Mike Parker, international director of MECO, said: "As our Christian friends in the Middle East are under such pressure at the moment, this is a significant new initiative. It's a great example of our commitment to partner with local Christians as they respond practically and spiritually to the circumstances overwhelming their country."

Another Christian charity, Global Care, is working to support the education of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. This month, it announced that it would dedicate £77,000 to pay for 15 children from a settlement known as "Widows' Camp" to attend an informal school set up by Heart for Lebanon, a Lebanese Christian agency. The money will fund teachers' salaries, rent, transport from the camp, food, and teaching materials.

The school meets in a church building in Ain Kfar Zabad, a village near the border with Syria. Global Care is raising funds to support another 19 children at a cost of £500 per child, per academic year.

In December, a UN report - Education Interrupted - outlined four recommendations to prevent Syrian children from becoming a "lost generation". It included a call to "scale up success and innovation", including "non-formal learning centres", in Lebanon.

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