Charity presses leaders on school for Syrians

12 August 2016

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, LEBANON

First-hand: the International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Lebanese Education Minister, Elias Bou Saab, visit a school in Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon, last week

First-hand: the International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Lebanese Education Minister, Elias Bou Saab, visit a school in Bekaa V...

IN FEBRUARY, when the cameras of the international press were upon them at a conference in London, the world’s leaders pledged that, by the end of the 2016/17 academic year, all Syrian refugee children would be in school (News, 12 February). Five months later, their words are in danger of ringing hollow, a new report warns.

No Lost Generation — Holding to the promise of education for all Syrian refugees, published by the children’s charity Their World, states that almost one million Syrian refugee children are out of school. While the efforts of host countries such as Lebanon have resulted in “notable advances”, the record of the wider international community is “at best chequered”.

Lacking teachers, schools and classrooms and let down by “failures in development finance” — short-term, unpredictable funding rather than multi-year financing — hosts are struggling to fulfil ambitious plans to offer education to all.

This is a “powerful driver of migration”, the report’s authors warn, and risks leaving Syria deprived of the skills it needs to rebuilt a war-torn country. It also leaves young people vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups.

The London conference is “in danger of following a lengthy list of summits that have promised much but delivered little”, the report says. Pledges in excess of $12 billion were made, and it was recognised that at least $1.4 billion would be required to fulfil the promises about education.

While a lack of transparency from donors makes it difficult to track delivery, it estimates that $400 million of funding has been tabled, out of the £1.4 billion required. To date, only 39 per cent of the UN’s $662-million humanitarian appeal for education provision has been provided.

Syrian children now account for more than a third of pupils in state schools in Lebanon, where a second-shift system has been created, which has led to “extraordinary progress”. But 155,000 of 6-14-year-olds are out of school, in addition to the vast majority of those aged 15-18.

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The largest out-of-school population is in Turkey, where more than 500,000 Syrian refugee children are out of school. Many are working, often in hazardous conditions. Only one third of its education appeal has been funded.

Among the recommendations made in the report are fulfilment of the London pledges and increased support from the EU and the World Bank. The UK is on track to deliver on its conference commitments to support education. The report notes that, of the main donors to Lebanon’s education appeal, only DfID has provided a medium-term multi-year commitment (£40 million a year over four years).

“The UK has led the way in responding to the Syria crisis since day one, and we have been absolutely clear on the importance of education throughout,” a DFID spokesperson said this week. “UK support has already provided hundreds of thousands of children caught up in the crisis with the chance to learn.

” And the new International Development Secretary made Jordan and Lebanon her first overseas visit, underlining this commitment. We will provide more than £500 million this financial year, which includes significant funding for education. We are delivering on our promises, and will make sure that other donors do the same.”

The report features the story of 16-year-old Mohammed Kosha, who finished second in Lebanon’s secondary-school entrance exam, after spending up to seven hours a day on homework.

No Lost Generation is downloadable at: www.theirworld.org/.

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