Broken promises could mean half of Syrian refugees still out of school

Children in conflicts, Double-shift schools, Education funding, Education in emergencies, Refugees and internally displaced people

Broken promises by world leaders could lead to half of all Syrian refugee children still being shut out of school.

With the new school year starting within days in neighbouring host countries, the figures are still unclear – but the best estimates are that hundreds of thousands of girls and boys will be denied an education.

And that means many of them will be at risk of child labour, child marriage and exploitation – and without hope for the future.

In February, the co-hosts of the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London promised that one million Syrian refugee children would be in school this academic year in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Now they have just days to come up with the $1 billion that is still needed to make that happen, as well as provide schooling for vulnerable children in the host countries and out-of-school children in Syria.

There are huge opportunities to rectify the situation next week at the United Nations General Assembly. The co-hosts of the Syria conference will meet again in New York to discuss why the promised money still hasn’t arrived. 

How you can help

We need to keep up the pressure on them. Can you post a message on the Facebook profiles of the co-hosts – using the #SafeSchools and #SupportSyrians hashtags – reminding them to keep their promises?

Here are their Facebook pages:

Please be polite – abusive messages will just get ignored or deleted. A simple reminder that promises to children should never be broken is firm enough.

Last week, the children’s charity Theirworld visited Turkey and met refugee children who are desperate to go back to school.

Children like Rima, who was top of her class back in Aleppo and planned to become a doctor. Now Rima is forced to work selling tissues in the street to support her family rather than being in school.

Another major event next week is the Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis, hosted by United States President Barack Obama on September 20. It is one of two summits on refugees being held during the UN General Assembly.

Ahead of those talks, leading charities and NGOs have signed a letter to Obama, praising the summit’s stated objective “to increase the number of refugees worldwide in school by one million”.

They include Theirworld – the charity behind A World at School – Human Rights Watch, Plan International, Global Citizen and Save The Children.

But the organisations say this one million children aim must not double-count previous pledges made earlier this to get refugee children into school – including the promises at the London conference, at the World Humanitarian Summit in May or for the newly-launched Education Cannot Wait fund for education in humanitarian emergencies.

Their letter says: “The Syria Pledging Conference was exclusively focused on Syrian refugees, who represent only one of the many dire refugee crises disrupting education prospects for children globally.

“Children in forgotten conflicts around the globe remain out of school and yet see no new funding. South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi and the Central African Republic are just a few of the major conflicts receiving little attention.”

Here is the latest known position in three of the countries hosting Syrian refugees: 

  • Turkey

With more than 60% of Syrian children not in education, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said his agency needs to do more to help a country hosting three million refugees including 2.7 million Syrians.

During a trip to the capital Ankara, Filippo Grandi said he hoped the September 19 summit on refugees in New York would increase the global commitment to help.

Turkey has promised that all refugee children will be able to access education – and there was a 50% increase in enrolment during the last school year.

  • Lebanon

The Ministry of Education and the UN children’s agency UNICEF expect to enroll more children this school year in the double-shift system.

The number of schools using this system will rise from 238 last year to 330.

But there will still be thousands who remain out of the reach of education because they have to work to support their families, live too far from a school or have missed too many years of education to catch up.

  • Jordan

Last month Jordan announced several measures that will allow tens of thousands of Syrian refugee children to go to school this year.

It will let children enrol even if they don’t have the proper paperwork. More than 100 of Jordan’s state schools willl start running a double-shift system – twice the previous number – to let another 50,000 students enrol.

The education ministry also announced plans to create special catch-up classes for 25,000 children aged from eight to 12 who have missed out on three years or more of education. 

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