Syrian refugee totals are expected to top 4 million by the end of 2014, and the challenge now is how to educate the children, given that all sides in the conflict are pursuing a policy of perpetual warfare.
Yet Amy West writes that the world is dragging its feet on providing money that was promised for both money and education.
During a visit to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan late last year, the U.N. envoy on youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, emphasized the need to ensure that young Syrians have access to education and vocational training. Yet prioritizing education to support refugee youth is a hard sell in emergency-response efforts. Only 14 percent of the $4.26 billion required to implement the Syrian Regional Response Plan has been allocated, according to the U.N. The proposed allocation for education under the plan (9 percent of total funding) is relatively small compared with other priority sectors such as food (28 percent). This is a reflection of competing priorities and the lack of emphasis placed on secondary education or the employability needs of youth under the U.N.’s Education for All initiative and the Millennium Development Goals.
Since the war is not going to end anytime soon, this is going to place a major strain on the resources of the host countries, who already have to deal with the Palestinian refugees. And if these children are not properly education and the world does not follow through on its promises to provide funds, then the risk is that they will either turn to a life of poverty, crime, or terrorism. In other words, there is a lot more risk in doing nothing than there is in providing the promised funds to help these refugees.
The US has donated $1.7 billion over the last three years to Syrian refugees as of January, but the question is if all of the money is getting to the refugees in need. And Oxfam notes that the US could do much more based on its fair share. The US has contributed 88% of its fair share, according to figures in the Think Progress link. That is better than some. By way of contrast, Russia has only contributed 5%.
The problem is that neither side in the conflict is allowing aid to get to the refugees inside Syria. That shows that neither side can be trusted to show a regard for other human lives and that we have no business arming either side. Congress should ratify the treaty against small arms and there must be a concerted effort by the government and research community to study the flow of small arms trafficking and examine how small arms are getting to both sides.
As the world is continuing to turn a blind eye to the war and violence in Syria, the UN is less and less able to feed the refugees coming into Lebanon. The result is that many are going into debt by as much as $2,000.
United Nations agencies have been forced to reduce food aid to about one out of five Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Those who get no food say they are falling into deep debt.The Lebanese government estimates that they will be able to absorb 100,000 refugees into their schools. That means that there will be at least 200,000 who will go without an education unless something is done. And even for the ones that are lucky enough to get one, the language barrier means that there will be a lot of challenges for these kids to get through school.
Syrian refugees continue to flee the violence in their country. Many of them are going to Lebanon. U.N. aid agencies found it increasingly difficult to provide food assistance to them for most of last year. Twenty percent of registered refugees had their food aid ended at the end of 2013.
And many more have to work in order to provide for their families, meaning that education will be difficult or impossible.
Education plays a pivotal role in the lives of children and youth, for which there is no substitute. Even during war, education must be provided because no child, youth, or society can bear the consequences of missing education. This is particularly important given that the Syrian refugees may be displaced for a long period of time. Syrian parents and families deeply value education, and education helps to promote a sense of normalcy in conflict situations; this is especially relevant for the 4 million Syrian children that have been affected by the current conflict.
Youth, in addition to children, must feature in international efforts to support refugee education. From a security and a stability perspective, there are key reasons to support not only children, but also youth throughout the educational lifecycle. Youth are affected by the pressures of unemployment, which are exacerbated by forced migration, language barriers and conflict. Already, youth unemployment in the Middle East region is among the highest in the world. Employers complain of youth’s lack of transferable skills and poor preparation for the world of work. Indeed, the dissatisfaction among youth in region over their inability to participate fully in economic and political life can threaten stability and security for the region. This was widely visible during the youth protests of the Arab Spring, and radicalization of young people by insurgent groups is in part a result of poor education systems and a lack of educational and vocational alternatives.She says that gender dimensions, investing in local capacity, learning outcomes, and allowing youth a voice in their education are critical.
While the world continues to turn its back, some children as old as 11 don't know how to read and write. And some can't even hold a pen.
Many of the younger children struggle to hold a pen. Some don’t know how; others have forgotten.
“This is the first time I have gone to school in two years,” says Hanaa, a Syrian refugee. She sits in the sand in the informal settlement in eastern Lebanon that she and her family call home. Hanaa has started attending ‘non-formal’ classes held on the settlement. She wants to be a teacher or a doctor, when she grows up.