Gordon Brown visits Lebanon and urges action for Syrian refugee children

Children in conflicts, Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown meets children at Beirut school today

The international community has been urged to take action so that Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon can return to school.

The call came today from Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, who was marking the three-month countdown to the new school year in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

Mr Brown – who also reissued his call for a humanitarian aid fund for education in emergencies – has been a driving force behind the “No Lost Generation” campaign to help ensure these young people do not lose out on education.

A schoolgirl shows her pencil case to Mr Brown 

During his two-day visit to Lebanon, he met with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Minister of Education Elias Bou Saab, visited Syrian out-of-school youth and attended an #UpForSchool youth rally.

Mr Brown also visited the El Shyah Second Mixed Public School. It uses the “double-shift” model, where exiled Syrian children use existing Lebanese schools in the afternoon – a model he has campaigned for since October 2013.

The education envoy said: “The four-year-long Syrian conflict has resulted in the largest refugee crisis in 20 years. Lebanon is hosting over a million refugees and over 400,000 of these are children.

Mr Brown with education minister Elias Bou Saab

“We must ensure that an entire generation of children from Syria do not pay the price because their education is neglected. Children who are out of school are forced to work, coerced into early marriage and driven into the arms of extremists.”

There is no minimum age for marriage in Lebanon and Syrian refugee girls are at particular risk of forced marriage. In Syria, the legal framework did not allow marriage below 16 years old for girls.

Mr Brown continued: “The Minister of Education has shown tremendous leadership in rallying the Lebanese and international community for providing all Syrian refugees with education.

“With just three months before the start of the new school year, we need the international community to provide support to the government so they can implement the agreed plan to provide education for refugee and vulnerable children in the country. We must act now before it is too late and hundreds of thousands of children lose hope.”

At a press conference, Mr Bou Saab said the former British prime minister had helped to raise more than £100 million from the international community to help the cost of educating Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.

UNICEF Lebanon’s Acting Representative Luciano Calestini said: “Education is crucial for children in so many aspects – not only as an education response but as a protection response and as a way of maintaining social cohesion.

“A child outside of a safe learning environment is a child at greater risk of abuse and exploitation. UNICEF, the Ministry of Higher Education and Education, and our partners are committed and working hand-in-hand to provide vulnerable children with access to quality education, and to ensure they remain in school.”

Young people in Lebanon are standing #UpForSchool.

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