Businesses commit $50m to help Syrian refugee children return to school

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies, Sarah Brown

Syrian refugee children being taught at a school in Lebanon

More than 50 companies have united to support plans to get one million Syrian refugee children back into school this year.

An initial commitment of $50 million was announced today by the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Executive Chair Sarah Brown revealed the funding boost from the private sector in the lead-up to the Syrian Donor Conference on February 4 and said the businesses will continue to make new commitments in the coming weeks.

She added: “We are hugely grateful to our coalition members and partners for this overwhelming contribution – and recognising the need to ensure the future for Syrian refugee children is not ignored because their education is neglected. 

“The number of new technology companies and emerging businesses joining in this effort shows the enormous potential of harnessing future-oriented innovations from the private sector to address education in emergencies.

“We can make a very real difference to over a million children by supporting them to get into school to learn and rebuild their lives.”

The GBC-Education commitment comes in the wake of A World at School launching the Hope For Syria’s Young Talent campaign, which calls on the international community to support the plan to get one million Syrian refugee children into school in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Sarah Brown visits Syrian refugee students at Mtein school at Mount Lebanon Picture: Anthony Achkar

Last week the campaign featured a film called Straight Outta Syria, which shows three refugee brothers who use their talent for rapping to express their feelings about their home country and their flight to safety in Lebanon.

GBC-Education is a forum connecting businesses to make a lasting impact on the lives of children and youth through education. Members and partners are making commitments to support Syrian refugee children through finance and in-kind support – including direct support to NGOs working in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

They are also helping with finance for “speed” schools to accelerate the transition back into school for Syrian refugee children who have fallen behind and supporting a strong focus on vocational training among vulnerable communities.

The aid from GBC-Education members also includes innovative solutions from IT providers and education providers to deliver quality educational content through technology for schoolchildren and training material for teachers.

Many of the commitments and partnerships come from organisations based in the Middle East. They are also joined by other global companies that are invested in the future of Syrian refugees.

This includes support from GBC-Education members ITWORX Education via the EuroMENA Fund, Pearson, NRS International and Vitol Foundation; and companies Bridge International Academies and McKinsey.

Foundations and funds such as Breteau Foundation, Ikea Foundation, Makhzoumi Foundation, Mikati Foundation and the Speed School Fund also pledged support.

Tom Fletcher, Director of Global Strategy for GBC-Education, said: “Our coalition members are not only supporting with money but bringing their vast expertise, ideas, creativity and connections to tackle this enormous challenge.

“This is not only about getting children back into the classroom but also making sure that they are safe getting to school, teachers have access to the right resources and the quality of education is not impacted upon.

“A challenge like this creates a space for business to really show how they can play a huge role and make a fundamental difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in the world.”

Coalition members are not only engaging as donors but as practical partners. Companies will utilise their core assets to create opportunities for significant improvement in the focus areas of technology, content, connectivity, logistics and employability.

Along with these plans, the expertise of institutions like New York University (through its Global TIES Programme) and non-governmental organisations such as Jusoor and Rumie are being brought on to tackle the challenge of ensuring children return to school, close learning gaps and receive a quality of education.

GBC-Education is also expanding its network in the Middle East, alongside partners like the Young Presidents Association and business networks in the region.

Read Sarah Brown’s blog on helping Syrian child refugees on the World Economic Forum website.

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