UK government supports ‘excellent’ school plan for Syrian refugees

Syrian refugee children in Lebanon Picture: Pieter Stockmans

The British government has joined the growing movement backing the emergency plan to get 435,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon into school.

International development minister Alan Duncan said he “fully supports this excellent plan” – first commissioned by A World at School in September – that will use double shifts to get children into classrooms in a matter of weeks.

Since the report was commissioned, the government of Lebanon has endorsed an operational plan with UNICEF and UNHCR coordinating the response; more than 50 organisations, advocacy groups and international institutions have endorsed a statement calling for full funding of education for all Syrian children affected by conflict, including backing the Lebanon schooling proposal.

Yesterday’s announcement that “the UK is there to support UNICEF’s Lebanese education plan” was another significant step towards making education a reality for the children of Syria. 

This reflects a growing consensus amongst major donors – including The United States of America, Norway, Denmark, the European Union and the United Arab Emirates – who have also indicated their support for the plan and the urgency of the situation.

The pledge was made in the House of Commons on February 13 in a debate called for by UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown.  Promising that  the UK Department for International Development (DFID) will “do all they can to underpin his efforts”, Mr Duncan said Mr Brown had “done the children of Syria and Lebanon an inestimable service in fighting their corner”.

The simplicity of the plan means it can be rolled out quickly. Instead of having to build new camp schools for refugees, exiled Syrian children will use existing Lebanese schools on a two-shift system, offering education to refugee boys and girls outside normal school hours.

DFID is already providing 300,000 packs of textbooks for all children between the ages of six and 15 who attend state schools in Lebanon.  However, at the beginning of the year it looked likely that hundreds of thousands of children in Lebanon would be left without any education at all – many for the second or third year in a row.

We now look forward to making sure that these pledges of support translates into education – and some hope for the future – for the children of Syria, and that education for the child victims of conflict is no longer the forgotten cause it normally is.

As Mr. Duncan said in the debate, we must support “the children of today who will have to rebuild their country tomorrow” – and we must do so urgently