After 12 years of war, education is still the key for Syrian refugees
A programme that helps students progress to higher education is the latest in a series of Theirworld projects and reports that have offered hope to thousands of young refugees.
The invasion of Ukraine continues to dominate world headlines. But only 1,000 miles away, the long-running conflict in Syria – like other crises in the Middle East – is in danger of being forgotten or ignored.
The country was plunged into civil war 12 years ago today. Since then, five million children born in Syria have experienced bombing, fear and trauma – and one in three show signs of psychological distress.
Inside Syria, 2.4 million children are currently out of school and 1.6 million are at risk of dropping out. Beyond its borders, more than 2.6 million Syrian refugee children and adolescents live in camps and host communities after their families fled the violence.
Education is key to helping young refugees get their lives back on track and giving them hope for a brighter future. But many face challenges when it comes to accessing learning, including progressing from high school to higher education. One of them is Avin, whose goal was to study computer science at university in Lebanon.
She was helped by Mosaik Education, an organisation that provides guidance and English classes to refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to ensure they have the skills and knowledge needed to pursue their studies and potential careers.
Theirworld began working with Mosaik Education last year to expand and test new models of support for refugees. It’s the latest in a series of innovative projects and ground-breaking reports by Theirworld that have been supporting Syrian refugees since 2013.
“When I graduated from high school, I had no idea how to do anything else,” said 20-year-old Avin. “Through Mosaik I learned how to do an interview, resume and motivation letter.
“It’s really important to support refugees, as they are facing many difficulties in their life. They need someone to introduce them to the curriculum and majors because they are very different from Syria. The market is very competitive.
“My advice to other young people is not to give up on trying to study regardless of the difficulties they face. There is nothing impossible.”
Mosaik Education founder Ben Webster said: “Theirworld’s commitment to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation matches our own vision – and we are working together towards this.”
Theirworld’s work with Mosaik Education is made possible thanks to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
As the Syria conflict enters its 13th year, here are some of the key moments in Theirworld’s education support for Syrian refugees.
Hundreds of thousands of refugee children in Lebanon had no route into the country’s public schools. Theirworld published the influential report Education Without Borders, which introduced the idea of double-shift schools – with Syrian and refugee children being taught in the same classrooms in different languages at different times of the day. The plan was backed by United Nations agencies and adopted by the Lebanese Ministry of Education. This eventually led to more than 300,000 displaced children going to school.
We produced a series of reports on the state of the education crisis for refugee children in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, which warned about the risks of a lack of donor funding.
Theirworld started working with several partners on projects to help Syrian refugee children in Turkey – home of the world’s biggest refugee population (totalling 3.7 million people in 2023).
Our hard-hitting #YouPromised campaign called for world leaders not to renege on their guarantee of an education for every Syrian refugee child. Theirworld worked with magician Dynamo, who visited a refugee camp in Lebanon and addressed European Commissioners in Brussels. The EU then announced an aid package that included 100 million euros for access to schooling.
Using a blueprint from Theirworld, the Greek government and the UN committed to providing education to all 26,000 school-age refugee children in the country.
As well as Mosaik Education, Theirworld has other current projects which support refugee and Lebanese children and students.
For the MyBestStart programme, we work with agencies on the ground to give children, parents and teachers the tools and resources to provide early childhood education. The first phase, working with Alfanar, Ana Aqra and Lebanese Alternative Learning, reached 5,050 learners. A second phase, which includes the organisation SKILD, is expanding to reach thousands more.
Since 2020, we have also partnered with Scotland’s Edinburgh Business School to offer fully-funded Master of Business Administration (MBA) scholarships to two cohorts of refugees living in Lebanon and vulnerable Lebanese citizens.
With Theirworld’s support, Thaki is setting up computer labs in five schools in Lebanon and train teachers to use the devices and improve children’s digital skills. The project aims to reach 2,000 children aged five to 18 in 2023.