An appeal to enrol 400,000 Syrian refugee children in school before spring is being launched today with the support of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, girls campaigner Malala Yousafzai and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown.
The simplicity of the concept, crafted by Kevin Watkins, Director of the UK based Overseas Development Institute, is that it can be operational within weeks. Instead of having to build new camp schools for refugees, exiled Syrian children will use existing Lebanese schools on a two-shift system, offering education to Syrian children outside normal school hours.
The public are being asked to:
• Use Western Union services to donate to support UNICEF education programs for Syrian children. Western Union will provide a one-to-one matching contribution for the first $100,000 donated.The appeal comes 24 hours before the Second Internationl aPledging Conference for Syria, which is being held in Kuwait City on January 15th.
Mr Brown believes that education should be prioritised to prevent young people already scarred by war from becoming a “lost generation”. He says: “It was through the creation of the red cross and later medicine san frontieres that the right to health care even in conflict has become the norm over a century.
“By fighting for the fundamental right to education for the children of Syria we can establish the principle that even in the most hopeless of situations learning can continue.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the plan, he says. "Children are the innocent victims of conflict and this plan to quickly get refugee children from Syria into school in Lebanon is both welcome and essential."
Education campaigner Malala Yousafzai has spoken of her personal connection to the crisis: “I can feel what’s happening in Syria because it’s what happened to us in Pakistan,” she said of being displaced by violence.
Malala had a heartfelt message for the exiled children, telling them: “I totally support you. You are very brave. There is now a real chance with this plan and I believe that you will get your education, that you will go to school - and that no one can stop you.”
Kevin Watkins, Director of the UK based Overseas Development Institute, has written a blog for the Huffington Post about the need for a "new deal" on education for Syrian refugee children.