Supporting Syria and funding education: live coverage of donors conference

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies

Welcome to our coverage of the Supporting Syria and the Region pledging conference in London. The international community is gathering to raise money to help the millions of people affected by the Syrian conflict.

Here are the main education-related points so far:

British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to use UK aid to help one million Syrian refugee children currently not in school to get an education in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

The Global Business Coalition for Education has announced the private sector has committed £75 million to support the education of one million refugee children in host countries.

Norway will double its funding for Syrian refugees to about $280 million – with 15% of it earmarked for education and child protection.

The United States announces new funding of $290 million specifically for education in Lebanon and Jordan.

If you want to know more about the background to the conference, here is our handy guide to the event.


Picture: Getty Images/Ben Pruchnie

Young Syrian refugees have sent hundreds of hand-printed messages to world leaders, asking them to provide education for every child.

TV’s Downton Abbey star Laura Carmichael and Soulayma Mardam – a Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School – delivered the messages on Wednesday against the backdrop of the famous Big Ben tower in London.

Read more about the messages and find out what Laura and Soulayma had to say about providing education for every Syrian refugee child.


A key announcement this morning from David Cameron. The UK Prime Minister says: “We will use our aid money to support Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan in making sure that every child in these countries will have access to education by the end of the next school year.

“This will mean one million children currently not in school getting an education.

In an article for the Guardian, Mr Cameron writes: “We are already the world’s second biggest bilateral donor to the region and we will now more double our total pledge to over $2.3 billion – committing twice as much this year as last.”

He adds: “We will use our aid money to support Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan in making sure that every refugee and vulnerable child in those countries will have access to education by the end of the next school year. This will mean one million children currently not in school getting an education.”


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

Sarah Brown, Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education), has outlined new commitments and partnerships from the private sector to help support one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey get an education this year.

The announcement will be made at the conference, where GBC-Education convened private sector partners from around the world alongside the conference hosts, UN agencies, and key donors.

She said: “The challenge of getting one million Syrian children in school this year requires urgent and innovative support from all sectors, and the business community has a unique role in tackling some of the barriers stopping children getting a quality education.”

Read the full story here.


A special education event at the conference has been convened by GBC-Education, with an array of guest speakers who are experts in the field of global education.

After opening remarks from Borge Brende, Norway’s foreign minister, education campaigner Malala Yousafzai is addressing the meeting. She introduces a very special guest – Muzoon Almellehan, whose family fled from Syria to Jordan and is now living in the UK..

Muzoon Almellehan from Syria tells of her hopes and dreams

Muzoon, a 17-year-old who dreams of becoming a journalist, says: “I am only one girl but I am here today to speak for all refugee children.”

She adds: “We need education because Syria needs us. Without us who will bring peace?” Talking about the so-called Lost Generation of Syrian young people, Muzoon says: “We are not lost – we have not lost our love of learning. We have not lost hope.”

Now we hear from Justine Greening, Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development. She says: “We have got about half of the children into school but it’s not enough. We need everyone to step up to the plate at this conference.”

Lebanon’s education minister Elias Bou Saab then outlines the challenges of educating 400,000 Syrian refugee students living in his country.

Imad Fakhoury, Jordanian Minister for Planning, outlines what his country is doing to provide education for refugees in his country.

He says: “The burden has reached its saturation point.” He says Jordan has had to hire 6000 extra teachers and 17% of local students are attending double-shift schools, where Jordanian and Syrian children are educated in the same school building at different times.

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chair of Qatar Foundation and Education Above All, talks about the importance of partnerships and announces funding to educate one million primary-age children.

UNICEF executive Director Anthony Lake (pictured above) says hundreds of thousands of children are already in school thanks to donors, host governments and local communities.

But he adds: “It is the children themselves who are the key.”

Sarah Brown announces the extra $75 million in funding from GBC-Education (see earlier entry and read the full story here) and then introduces some of those businesses which are helping.

Caitlin Baron from the Speed School Fund explains the work of her organisation in helping children denied an education to get back into the classroom.

Caitlin says: “The fund is proud to have committed to raise $20 million to enable Syrian refugee children to be ready to take up places in government schools. Through accelerated learning programmes, we enable children to enter school at grade level and progress with their peers.”

Caitlin Baron from the Speed School Fund

Sarah then introduces Romen Mathieu, from ITWORX Education via the EuroMENA Fund.

He says getting one million children into school this year would be extremely challenging using conventional methods. But he adds: “The good news is that if we use technology it is completely possible to bring eduction to every one of them, wherever they are. This is what the private sector can bring.”

Alex Asseily, founder of Jawbone, says: “When we can learn adaptively, we can change our strategies in real time and that allows us to spend our money more judiciously and allows us to move faster.”

John Fallon, chief executive of Pearson, talks about leveraging companies’ own employees, saying they “expect us to be involved” in work like this and “want to be involved themselves”.

After the GBC-Education section, we hear from Paige Alexander, USAID Assistant Administrator. She announces an increase of US funding specifically for education in Lebanon and Jordan to about $300 million. “None of us can do this alone,” she adds.

Massa Mufti, CEO of Sonbola, talks about providing education for Syrian children in Lebanon – and the important role of Syrian teachers. You can read a full interview with Massa about her work here.

The top table as the education side event finishes

Tove Wang, CEO of Save The Children Norway, pays tribute to the NGOs working on the ground in Syria. She adds: “The plan requires money, it also requires policy and system change.It also needs security because schools are being attacked every day.”

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, says: “This is a complex issue. We have to have informal as well as formal education. There is huge learning gap among Syrian youth. Tomorrow these young people have to find jobs and be part of their societies.”

Borge Brende and Justine Greening then sum up the education session.

Ms Greening says: “We have a clearer idea now of what we have to do and how to do it.”

Mr Brende pays tribute to the host communities and adds: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Syrian and Lebanese students sit together in classes at a mixed Elementary public school in Beirut Lebanon picture by Adam Patterson Panos DFID

Syrian and Lebanese students sit together in classes at a mixed elementary public school in Beirut Lebanon Picture: Adam Patterson/Panos/DFID


With the education side event over, it’s time for the co-hosts to welcome everyone to the main plenary session. British Prime Minister David Cameron is first to speak.

He says: “If ever there was a time to take a new approach to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, surely it is now. “

Mr Cameron adds that the vital tasks for donors include education. He says: “We do not want a generation to miss out on school and all that it means for their life chances.”

He introduces Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, who says: “Today let us commit to getting all Syrian refugee children into school within months, not years.”

Norway has been leading the way in the fight for education funds for Syrian refugee children. So it’s fitting that Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg is here.

She announces that Norway will double its funds for the Syrian crisis to about $280 million – with 15% of it earmarked for education and child protection. In total it is pledging $1.6 billion over the next four years.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg addresses the conference

Now we go into specific, themed pledging sessions, with education later today. So let’s remind ourselves of why getting all Syrian children into school is so vital.


Syrian girls and boys are talented young people who need education if they are to fulfil their potential. We found 10 amazing youngsters for our Hope for Syria’s Young Talent campaign. You can read about them here.

And watch this moving and inspirational video about three brothers who use rap to express their feelings about Syria and their new life in Lebanon.


US Secretary of State John Kerry uses the humanitarian pledging session to announce $290 million in new funding specifically to support schooling for 300,000 children in Jordan and Lebanon.

It’s part of the overall American pledge of $925 million to support Syrians.


Tom Fletcher – Global Strategy Director of GBC-Education, has been appearing on the BBC’s flagship World at One radio show.

He says: “Our great hope is that we’re going to have finance in place at the end of the day to get one million Syrian kids into school.

“That means one million Syrian kids who won’t be making that perilous journey across the Mediterranean, who won’t be easy prety for those who would like to see them in suicide vests – but back where they actually want to be – behind their desks and studying.”

Syrian children taking part in a reading challenge Picture: Facebook/Sonbola

That’s exactly the message from some of the world’s leading charities and aid agencies working inside Syria or across the region with Syrian refugees – including A World at School’s parent charity Theirworld, Save The Children and Plan International.

They made a joint statement ahead of the conference, which read: “We are calling on the participants in the London conference to commit to ensure all children and young people affected by the conflict have access to safe, quality, and relevant educational opportunities during the 2016/2017 academic year and on an ongoing basis.”

Kolleen Bouchane, Director of Policy, Research and Advocacy for A World at School and GBC-Education, has been at the conference.

But she’s taken time out to write a blog for the Huffington Post, in which she says: “Today for the first time, education was front and centre of the humanitarian response agenda.” Read her blog here.

Refugee Fatima, 12, in a mixed Syrian and Lebanese class in Beirut Picture: Addam Patterson/Panos/DFID


During the Inside Syria session, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon makes another impassioned plea for education funding. Hey says: “Inside Syria, nearly one child in three is out of school. Women and girls are enslaved and children, the sick and elderly are at risk of malnutrition and starvation.”

He adds: “We must build on initiatives such as UNICEF’s No Lost Generation campaign and my special envoy Gordon Brown’s proposal to get one million Syrian children into school in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

“These steps will require substantial financial commitments, new partnerships and innovative thinking.”


It’s 3.30pm UK time and now we begin a special pledging session on education, hosted and co-chaired by Norway and Lebanon.

First to speak is Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who says: “The message from this conference must be clear. We are committed to fulfilling the rights of all Syrian children to education.

“We are ready to provide the resources for all Syrian children and host community children in neighbouring countries to have access to education by the beginning of the school year.”

Justine Greening is about to introduce education campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. As she does, she says: “Young people have the ability to change our world for the better, with your energy and your inspiration.”

Malala Yousafzai makes her plea to the conference

Malala says: “I am here because I cannot tolerate that the world is staying silent while Syria is suffering.

“I’m here to remind you that Syria’s future depends on its children. And their future depends on you and the decisions you make.”

Talking about her own family’s flight from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, she adds: “I know what it is like to be forced out of your country. It saddens me that that experience is shared by millions of people and children right now.”

Referring to the so-called Lost Generation of Syrian children, Malala says: “These children will only be lost if you choose to give up on them. These children will only be lost if you choose to fail them.”

Lebanon’s education minister, Elias Bou Saab, has been at the forefront of efforts to give Syrian children an education through the double-shift system.

He tells the conference of his own experience as a refugee in 1992, when he missed a year of school when his family fled from Lebanon to Syria.

Elias Bou Saab in tears as he tells the story of Mohammed

The room is then silent as – fighting back tears and his voice choked with emotion – he tells of an incident just four weeks ago.

“Mohammed, seven years old, died in school,” says Mr Bou Saab. “Mohammed is a Syrian refugee. I asked to speak to his father in the hospital and he told me he had five children in the same school.

“But he’s happy that Mohammed had an opportunity to die while he had a chance to go to school.

“He walked out of the room, walked into the other three rooms where his brothers and sisters are, looked at them and went back to his room and died because he is sick. His father didn’t know of his illness.

“The international community is to be thanked that Mohammed, before he died, and his brothers and the rest will get an opportunity to go to school.”

Tunisian tourist minister and business leader Dr Amel Karboul talks about the value of the private sector in delivering education to refugees.

She mentions the commitments of $75 million from Global Business Coalition for Education members. She adds that the the private sector can bring “creative, maybe even disruptive” solutions – and says technology can take education to children who cannot go to a physical school.


The final part of today’s proceedings is the press conference with the co-hosts. David Cameron says the Syria conference has raised more than $10 billion in pledges – “the largest amount of money ever raised in one day in response to a humanitarian crisis”.

He says the money raised will mean one million refugee children in neighbouring countries will definitely be able to go to school.

Mr Cameron adds: “Today has been and is a day of hope, a day about saving lives, a day about building futures, a day about giving people the chance of a future, the chance of a life.”

Ban Ki-moon thanks the governments of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey for choosing solidarity instead of fear. He adds: “Never has the international community raised so much on a single day for a single crisis.”

With the official conference over, of our amazing Global Youth Ambassadors then deliveres the messages from Syrian children to the UN Secretary-General.

Global Youth Ambassador Soulayma took our messages to world leaders attending the #SupportSyrians pledging conference in…

Posted by A World At School on Thursday, 4 February 2016

Read more: world leaders pledge to get one million children into school


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