Syria conference will urge world leaders to fund education for all children

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies

Syrian refugee children at a public school in Lebanon

Double your money. That’s the call to world leaders as they gather in London on February 4 to raise funds to help the millions of victims of the Syrian conflict.

Without urgent action, one million vulnerable Syrian children living as refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon will be out of school and at risk of child labour, early marriage, exploitation and extremism.

The Supporting Syria and the Region pledging conference is being held to address to gaps in funding aid for those affected by the crisis.

For 2016, almost $9 billion is needed – and at least $1.4 billion of that is necessary to ensure all children and young people affected by the conflict are in school and learning this year..

Participating countries will be asked to at least double their 2015 financial contributions to the crisis, according to a statement from the British government, which is co-hosting the event.

Businesses are also being urged to step up. The Global Business Coalition for Education, which is co-hosting an event at the conference, has already announced an initial commitment of $50 million at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month.

Its Global Strategy Director Tom Fletcher said: “Governments alone recognise that they cannot crack this problem. So it is great that the private sector is putting up its hand and offering to help.

“This new approach – coalitions between business, donors and governments – can make the difference we want to see. It can be the basis of one million Syrian children getting back to school.”

Here are some key facts about the Supporting Syria and the Region conference.

A Syrian refugee girl in a tent in the Jordan Valley Picture: UNICEF/Noorani

The background

The Syrian conflict, which began in 2012, has created the biggest refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II. Billions of dollars are needed to support the millions of people caught up in the crisis – to give them food, shelter, medicine, education, economic opportunities and security.

There are 13.5 million vulnerable and displaced people inside Syria and 4.4 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

The education crisis

Getting children back into school is always a last priority in any emergency response, with only 1% of all humanitarian aid going to education last year.

There are an estimated 1.4 million Syrian refugee children in five neighbouring countries and at least 700,000 are getting no education. Some have been out of school for years.

More refugee children are on the streets and child marriage rates are already doubling among Syrian refugee girls. A recent survey estimated one in three boys and girls have become child labourers, often working illegally in unsafe conditions.

Getting children into school provides a safe, secure environment. But they also need a quality education if they are to fulfil their potential.

The education solutions

The governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have agreed to send a powerful message and provide one million school places to Syrian refugee children this year. More than half the funds required have been pledged but further funding is urgently needed to get all Syrian children in school.

Students at Mtien School in Lebanon open their first Kano kit computers as part of Theirworld’s Technology in Classrooms programme Picture: Anthony Achkar

World leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to support this plan and other programmes to get every Syrian child in school – within and outside the country.

Under a new double-shift system, where local children share their school buildings with the refugees, more than 207,000 Syrian children are now enrolled as pupils in Lebanon.

The cost of education

Just over half of the $750 million needed to educate the one million children has been pledged, leaving a funding gap of $300 million.

UNICEF says a total of $1.4 billion is needed to educate all children within and outside Syria. This includes 2.1 million Syrian children out-of-school in Syria ($516 million) and 1.7 million Syrian refugee children – in and out of school – and affected host community children ($933 million).

The pledging conference

For the past three years, an annual conference has been held in Kuwait to bring together the international community to raise the funds needed.

The 2016 conference will be held on February 4 in London and will be co-hosted by the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations.

Last year UN agencies and NGOs asked for $7.4 billion to fund the Syrian aid efforts – but received only $3.7 billion.

Syrian refugee children at UNICEF-supported kindergarten in Kilis, Turkey Picture: UNICEF/Noorani

The objectives

There are three main goals:

  • To raise the just under $9 billion needed to support the 2016 UN inter-agency appeals ($7.73 billion) and the national response plans of regional governments ($1.2 billion)
  • To address the long-term needs of those affected – including providing education and creating jobs and economic opportunities
  • To keep up pressure on those involved in the conflict to protect civilians – and be prepared to help the region become stabilised when the conditions are right

The format

The day will open with speeches from the co-hosts. There will then be pledging segments – each centred around a key theme, including education, humanitarian, economic opportunities inside Syria and protection of civilians.

There will be films, video link-ups and speakers from NGOs and the private sector.

The participants

Among those invited are 70 world leaders, international organisations, NGOs, civil society and the private sector. Also there will be Soulayma Mardam, one of A World at School’s network of 500 Global Youth Ambassadors in 85 countries. She is travelling from Lebanon to deliver thousands of hand-written messages from Syrian refugees demanding education.

Fatima, aged six, says “I want to be a teacher” – the picture is from the charities’ statement to the Syria conference (see below)

The speakers

There will be a focused event on education, at which education campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai will make an impassioned plea for funds. She will appear alongside 17-year-old schoolgirl Muzoon Almellehan, the only young Syrian refugee to speak. They first met at the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan in 2014.

Other speakers at this event will include Lebanese education minister Elias Bou Saab, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Sarah Brown, Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education.

What charities are saying

Some of the world’s leading charities and aid agencies have joined forces to demand a quality education for every child affected by the Syrian conflict.

The organisations, working inside Syria or across the region with Syrian refugees, include A World at School’s parent charity Theirworld, Save The Children and Plan International.

Their joint statement said: “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.”

Associated events

There will also be an NGO conference and a business event on February 3 that will provide input to the main conference.

The NGO conference is co-facilitated by Bond, the UK membership body for NGOs working in international development. It will raise awareness of the situation in Syria, with an emphasis on making the voices of Syrians heard and putting a spotlight on the experiences of people affected by the conflict.

The business event is hosted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It is aimed at enhancing the private sector’s role in supporting refugee-hosting communities and strengthening the resilience of local economies.

Get updates from the conference throughout the day on February 4 on the A World at School website.


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