World leaders should not give up on education for Syrian refugee children

Syrian Refugee Children In Lebanon
Syrian refugee children at a school in Lebanon (Theirworld)

Refugees and internally displaced people, Theirworld

World leaders are falling short on their promise to provide education for all young Syrian refugees and prevent “a lost generation” of children, a coalition of leading children’s charities led by Theirworld has warned.

Ahead of the Brussels Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region next week, campaigners from leading organisations including Theirworld, Save the Children, Plan International, World Vision and Human Rights Watch are urging the international community not to give up on the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee children who remain out of school.

In 2016, world leaders pledged that all children who had been forced to flee the war in Syria would be given a place in school within a year. But four years later, almost 750,000 Syrian refugee children – 36% of the total in five neighbouring states  – remain out of school. This is in addition to the two million children inside Syria who are not in education. 

Out of school, these children are more vulnerable to early marriage, teenage pregnancy, child labour and exploitation.

Despite the education crisis facing these children in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, there is a real risk that education will not be included in any of the pledges or speeches at the conference. Campaigners say this would be a “gross failure of political leadership”.

In an open letter, the coalition is calling on leaders to prioritise education or risk letting down some of the world’s most vulnerable children.

“The international community has repeatedly vowed that there would be ‘no lost generation’ of Syrian children – but with the conflict tragically heading towards a second decade, they are more vulnerable than ever,” it says.

“You have a responsibility to renew your commitments to provide education for all Syrian refugee and displaced children. We call on you to ensure that education is not forgotten as you make your speeches and pledges on 30 June 2020. 

“If education is not devoted to the attention and resources it deserves, this would be a gross failure of political leadership. Not only will you be failing to meet your promises, but you will be failing Syria’s children. Syrian refugees haven’t given up on the hope of a decent life and an education. We shouldn’t give up on them.”

On Tuesday, June 30, the United Nations and European Union will co-chair the fourth Brussels Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, a virtual conference that will bring world leaders together to discuss how to respond to the crisis in Syria. 

The conference is expected to lead to new funding and policy commitments to support people inside Syria, and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

To coincide with the conference, Theirworld has published a new report – Keeping Our Promise to Syria’s refugees – Education and the No Lost Generation, and a  video on Syrian refugee education. 

The report calls for the following:  

  • Close the funding gap. Funding for refugee education in Syria and the region has declined since 2018 and there is a gap of $556 million between the funding available for education and the assessed education needs. None of the five main refugee hosting countries have received enough funding to meet their full education needs. 
  • Develop new, multi-year response plans to address the persistent barriers to education and the new realities of Covid-19. 
  • Commit to improving performance and results – including better data sharing to track progress against commitments made.

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