UK Prime Minister David Cameron sees Syrian refugees at Lebanon school

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies

David Cameron talks to a family in the Bekaa Valley

British Prime Minister David Cameron heard first-hand about the plight of Syrian refugees today when he visited a school in the capital Beirut to see how Syrian and Lebanese children are taught in a double-shift system pioneered by A World at School.

More than 500,000 Syrian refugee children of school age live in Lebanon after their families fled from the conflict in their home country.

A World at School published a report in 2013 that proposed setting up a double-shift system so that Lebanese and Syrian children could be taught at different times and in different languages.

Our innovative plans were taken up by the Lebanese government – which has committed to providing 200,000 places in formal education through using the double-shift system – and have been backed by donors and international agencies.

Mr Cameron watched students enrolling on the first day of the academic year at Sed el Boucrieh school in Beirut. He also met a mother who lives with her 10 children in a tent in the Bekaa Valley, less than a mile from the Syrian border.

Mr Cameron sees conditons at the refugee camp

During the visit he made an announcement that the UK government would support an additional 59,000 children enrolled in shcool this year.

In the past week, world leaders have been urged to back a plan to get more than one million Syrian refugee children into school in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

A lack of donor funding is leaving vulnerable children out of classrooms and at risk of child labour, early marriage, exploitation and extremism, according to three detailed reports published last week by the charity Theirworld, in conjunction with A World at School and the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education). They were written after consultation with the governments of Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

Read the full reports here

The reports build on the work done over the past two years by the A World at School movement. While international donors have mobilised about $150 million to support education, the reports say this is less than half the amount needed to scale up the response.

Lebanese Education Minister Elias Bou Saab said: “Here in Lebanon we see every day the human impact the crisis in Syria has had – especially on children. The Lebanese Government has thrown open our school doors to help give these children the education they deserve.

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“But we cannot act alone and we should not be expected to. Many countries are already helping but we need more countries to make real commitments to funding education for the refugee children. As we get closer to the start of the school year this need is becoming urgent. We have made the places available, the international community needs to fund them all.”

Ben Hewitt, Director of Campaigns and Communications at A World at School, said: “Innovative solutions, such as the double-shift school system pioneered by A World at School, are crucial in order to match the scale of the challenge.

“Over the past few years the A World at School movement has been working with the Lebanese government and other important partners to test and build the double-shift system which aims to welcome 200,000 Syrian refugee children through the school gates this year, giving them the chance of a better future.

“Imagine any local school trying to cope with a doubling of its school programme in such a short time and the scale of the challenge is clear to see. The work being done in the region is remarkable but there are more than one million Syrian children out of school in the region.

“The governments of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan need major support now if we are going to get all Syrian children in to school or we risk leaving vulnerable children out of classrooms and at risk of child labour, early marriage, exploitation and extremism.”

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