Laura and Soulayma with handprinted messages from Syrian refugee children Picture: Getty Images/Ben Pruchnie
If one million Syrian refugee children are going to get into school this year, it's time for action. NOW!
That was the message from TV star Laura Carmichael and Soulayma Mardam - a Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School - outside world-famous Big Ben in London today.
The Downton Abbey actress and Soulayma delivered hand-printed messages from young Syrian refugees, calling for education for every girl and boy affected by the conflict.
The messages from hundreds of children living in Lebanon arrived in London ahead of the Supporting Syria and the Region pledging conference, when world leaders will address gaps in aid funding.
They are part of A World at School's Hope for Syria's Young Talent campaign. Tens of thousands of people have signed our petition or sent messages through campaigning movement Avaaz and media partners Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC Hope).
Nearly 40,000 messages have arrived in the past four days. with thousands of personal messages from children in Syria.
Soulayma - who will address a Supporting Syria and the Region civil society event - said: "Working with refugee children and families in Lebanon, one thing is clear - children can’t bear the idea of missing out on an education.
Some of the hand-printed messages sent by Syrian children
"World leaders will be meeting in London to decide whether to fund the school year and allow one million children the chance to unlock their potential. I'll be there, taking the message that we shouldn't miss the last chance to fund this school year."
Laura said: "Last year I traveled to Lebanon with Theirworld to meet Syrian refugee children out of school. The refugees I spoke to are are stuck in a no man's land, waiting for the war to end, trying to retain hope for a brighter future.
"Education for these children and families is the hope they need. It is the light at the end of the tunnel, which enables them to dream of a better future.
"Today I am presenting this message from hundreds of young people from Syria and thousands that have signed a petition demanding world leaders meeting tomorrow - invest in these children’s future by prioritising their education. This must happen now."
Alice Jay, Avaaz Campaign Director, said: “With no schooling Syria’s children will be casualties of war long after the guns fall silent. But today there is a chance to give them an education that would offer them a better future, help stop the flow of refugees and protect them from recruitment into extremist groups.
"Three-quarters of the funding needed to give a million children school places is there. Now thousands of people are calling on the London conference hosts to ensure the rest is pledged to get them into school this year.”
A plan to put one million Syrian refugee children into schools in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey needs $750 million funding - but there is a shortfall of $300 million.
At tomorrow's pledging conference, the international community will be asked to increase their funding to help pay for education in the region and ensure those one million children can fulfill their potential.