Gordon Brown: get Syrian refugee children into school or risk them being radicalised or victimised

Children in conflicts, Gordon Brown

Syrian refugee children at camp in Akka, Lebanon

If young Syrian refugees don’t get an education, they will run the risk of becoming radicalised or falling into child labour or child marriage.

The warning came today from Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education – as he called for urgent international help to get more refugee children into schools in Lebanon.

Mr Brown told the BBC: “Unless you invest in educating children and getting them into school you deprive a whole generation of hope.

“It’s hope that education gives that you can return to normal, that you can plan for the future, that you can have children who are going to be properly educated for jobs, even if they’re in camps or in settlements for 10 years.”

The education envoy is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week. He called for an emergency fund for education in crisis-hit countries and told delegates that a shortfall in funding meant only 100,000 Syrian children were being educated in Lebanese schools.

Mr Brown told the BBC that only 2% of humanitarian aid is targeted at education – and unless that improves it will deprive refugee children of hope.

Gordon Brown meets Lebanon education minister Elias Bou Saab Picture: Instagram/eliasbousaab

Hundreds of thousands of refugee children have fled the Syrian war with their families into neighbouring countries including Lebanon. Mr Brown said there was a plan in place through the “generosity of the Lebanese government” to get 500,000 children into existing schools. He said it would cost about $500 per child per year.

Mr Brown said the danger is that with every month that  the international community refuses to fund the plan “we have more and more young people who become discontented, disenchanted and of course lose the opportunity to make a contribution through their skills”.

He added: “We know that if children are on the streets, if they’re ignored, if they’re neglected there’s a danger of child slavery, of child labour, child marriage, child trafficking.

“There’s also a danger of childElias Bou Saab – who meet Mr Brown in London before the Davos summit – also told the BBC that if refugee camps were exploited by extremists, the international community would also be “paying a price”. Referring to the killing of innocent people in Paris reently, he said: “These terrorists, those extremists have no boundaries.”

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