Breakthrough means schooling for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

April 16, 2015

Syrian refugee children in Lebanon school

Children from Syria and Iraq at a "double-shift" school in Lebanon

An agreement has been reached which will deliver education to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee children whose families have fled to Lebanon.

The deal today between the international community and the Lebanese government means 200,000 spaces will be provided in public schools at the start of the school year in September if donors keep the pledge to step up support to reach the targets. NGOs will complement this programme and provide education for many thousands more. 

Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, welcomed the breakthrough at a meeting of Lebanese government officials, foreign ministers and high-level representatives from the international donor community held at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, DC.

He said: “One in four children now living in Lebanon is a refugee. The government has developed a plan and put in place the infrastructure to deliver education to these children." He said there was a "race against time and the untold damage that could be inflicted upon children if we fail to provide them with an education". 

The agreement came hours after a special report was published by Theirworld and A World at School, which examines how to get all refugee children in Lebanon into schools. The four-year Syrian conflict has seen millions of people flee into neighbouring countries - by the end of 2015, more than 655,000 Syrian children and youth are projected to be living in Lebanon alone.

A total of more than 2.6 million Syrian children are out of school in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt

At today's meeting, co-hosted by Mr Brown and Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Borge Brende, the Lebanese government set new targets for delivering education to Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese youth and putting systems in place for the new school year.

Mr Brown said: “The magnitude of this tragedy cannot be underestimated. For so many girls and boys, day-to-day survival is their life.

Gordon and Sarah Brown with Lebanon education minister Elias Bou Saab

Gordon and Sarah Brown with education minister Elias Bou Saab

"The government of Lebanon and Minster of Education Elias Bou Saab are leading the global community in undertaking innovative measures to deliver quality education and learning for Syrian refugees.

“The minister has agreed today to provide 200,000 spaces in public schools in the first and second shifts for Syrian refugees and establish a regulatory framework so that NGOs can complement the ministry’s work and provide education to thousands more. This will include early childhood and accelerated learning programmes for refugees missing several years of school.

“In return, international donors have agreed to step up commitments to education, support the government with predictable financing and make new funds available in time for the September school year to achieve these targets."

The three-year plan commits Lebanon and partners to provide each year access to quality learning opportunities in safe schools and protective environments to more than 400,000 Syrian and poor Lebanese children aged three to 18.

Mr Brown added: “Today I also met with leaders from the United Nations, international organisations and several donor country ministers to advance discussions on a humanitarian funding platform that will stop the systematic failure of not providing education to millions of children in conflicts and emergencies. We hope to announce that this initiative has moved forward at the Oslo Summit in July."

The report published today by Theirworld and A World at School is titled Reaching All Children with Education in Lebanon: Opportunities for Action. It follows a field visit to Lebanon and is informed by discussions with many individuals in the government and in the international organisations and agencies working on education.

It said that without education there can be little hope for the future of Syrian children who are out of school in Syria and in neighbouring countries - or for rebuilding Syria after the conflict.

Syrian refugee children in Lebnon are becoming trapped in child labour, early marriage and extremism at alarming rates, making their safety and the security of Lebanon a major concern for their families, the government and national and international organisations.

Cover of report on education for Syrian children in Lebanon

Cover of report published today on providing education in Lebanon

The report said that, despite the immense pressure on its system, Lebanon's Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) is committed to providing schooling for every child. This year, close to 110,000 Syrian school-aged children will be enrolled in Lebanese public schools - up 21% on last year.

However:

  • 400,000 Syrian school-age children between three and 18 remain out of school
  • Limited progress has been made in improving the overall quality of education, weakening the public school’s ability to retain students
  • Poor learning outcomes persist despite support to training 2500 Lebanese teachers and providing free learning materials to all students in public schools
  • Dropout rates among Syrian children were as high as 70% for the 2011-12 school year, and these rates are also increasing for Lebanese students in public schools

Syrian refugee children in Lebanon school

Forming a “delivery and financing pact” between the Lebanese government and the international community to improve delivery capacity, meet targets and ensure predictable financing could lead to educational opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children in a matter of months.

The report outlined seven opportunities to accelerate progress rapidly and in time for the upcoming 2015-16 school year. You can read the full report here.

Education is a right.  It gives freedom, hope and a future. No child should be denied it. Sign the #UpForSchool Petition, which calls on the international community to get every child into school.