World leaders urged to back plan to get one million Syrian refugees into school

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies

A plan of action to get more than one million Syrian refugee children into school in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon has been unveiled.

Three new detailed reports – one for each country, which all border Syria – warn that a lack of donor funding is leaving vulnerable children out of classrooms and at risk of child labour, early marriage, exploitation and extremism.

International donors have mobilised about $150 million to support education – but this is less than half of what is needed to cope with the scale of the challenge.

The reports call for urgent action from world leaders to tackle the immediate crisis of getting hundreds of thousands of children into school at the start of the new school year and commit long-term funding to get one million children into learning in the three countries.

Syrian children get a lesson at a school in Turkey

The three reports and an executive summary – published today by the charity Theirworld in conjunction with A World at School and the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) – were written after consultation with the governments of Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

Read the full reports here

Tom Fletcher, Global Strategy Director for GBC-Education and former British Ambassador to Lebanon, said: “The shift in European public opinion on Syria’s refugees has been hugely heartening and shows that we have not hit the limits of our compassion. It is absolutely right to debate what more we can do at home.

“But the frontline in this effort is the region, where Syria’s neighbours have faced refugee influxes we can not imagine.“

With the new school year due to start within two weeks, there is an immediate shortfall of $30 million needed in Lebanon to reach the first target of getting 200,000 children into school on September 28. In Jordan, a further $65 million would make it possible to reach 90,000 out-of-school children and make sure 130,000 are guaranteed continued support.

Syrian children at a UNICEF-supported school in Jordan Picture: UNICEF/Noorani

The reports say that, by establishing multi-year plans, providing longer-term financing and learning from experiences in the region, it is possible to reach one million refugee children with education over the next two years.

The plans were championed by Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, in a statement to the UN today. He said: “Despite the wonderful and heroic work of the international agencies, whose humanity I applaud, millions of children are falling through the net, trapped between a humanitarian system that rightly focuses on shelter and food and a development aid system that does not plan for emergencies.

“A few weeks ago I visited a French-run centre in Beirut, where hundreds of mothers and their children were crowded into one cramped room. Many were living in shacks and tents. Most looked as if they were going without basic nutrition and as if health care needs were barely being met. But for them, three and four years into their exile, their critical and repeated question was: how could their children ever be educated?

“This plan answers this question. Just as the facts of suffering shocked Europe into action within Europe’s borders, so too the evidence of suffering should shock the world into action for the four million refugees on the borders of Syria.”

Read Gordon Brown’s full statement here.

A Syrian refugee family living in a tented settlement in Lebanon

Reports author Maysa Jalbout said: “Many of these children are now facing their fifth year out of school. Providing education for them will enable them to learn the valuable skills necessary to be productive members of their communities and eventually return and rebuild their home country.”

The new reports, collectively titled “Scaling Up to Reach One Million Refugee Children: Accelerating Progress on Education for Syrian Refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon” – address the needs of the three countries which have become hosts to the largest number of refugees.

In the immediate school year, it is possible for thousands of refugee children to have the opportunity to be in school and learning if the international community continues to scale up technical and financial support for the three governments.

Mr Fletcher added: “Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have shown extraordinary generosity. We must match this by delivering the support that can get the one million children what  they want and need – an education, a future, and hope. People, governments, businesses are asking how they can help. This plan is the answer.”

UN education envoy Gordon Brown at talks with Lebanese officials

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.

“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.”

The reports were released two weeks before world leaders convene for the United Nations General Assembly in New York.



Syrian refugee children: 510,000 (ages 3-18)

Action needed:

  • 200,000 children into formal schools by September, 2015; less than $35million gap remaining for this school year. There is also a need to scale up non-formal and accelerated learning programmes.
  • Gradually increase formal education through the double-shift schools to reach all children while providing supplemental non-formal programs to put students on track to succeed in formal school.


Syrian refugee children: About 350,000, of which approximately 215,000 are of school age (5-17)

Action needed:

  • An investment of $65million for this school year would reach 90,000 out-of-school Syrian refugees and help sustain efforts currently supporting 130,000 children. This investment would also build up the resilience of the education system for the benefit of all children.


Syrian refugee children: 621,000 of school age

Action needed:

  • A series of interventions could significantly scale up the provision of education to Syrian refugees.  For example, $24million could prepare a cohort of 7,500 Syrian teachers to reach 300,000 refugee students in temporary education centres. Other interventions include enrolling 200,000 children into formal Turkish schools in double-shifts.
  • Scaling up resources and partnership with the Turkish government could strengthen a comprehensive approach to reach all Syrian refugee children in Turkey.

Read all the reports and the executive summary here.

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