In a pressing letter, KidsRights calls for international donors and host governments meeting in Brussels on April 24 and 25, 2018 to urgently fill a $603 million funding gap and make education a priority. The letter is an addition to the recently published KidsRights Report ‘The Widening Educational Gap for Syrian Refugee Children, exposing the rising number of refugee children out of school due to a lack of funding for Syrian refugees and restrictive policies by host countries.

The letter addresses donor countries and governments who have made commitments to ensure access to quality education for all Syrian children, but failed to deliver their financial commitments. In addition, host countries are called out for maintaining restrictive policies that keep children out of school.

Lost generation

More than 40 percent of Syrian refugee children living in neighboring countries are not being educated and the number is rising due to a lack of funding and bullying in schools, children’s rights group KidsRights said on Tuesday. Despite world leaders agreeing at a 2016 conference to enroll all Syrian refugee children into school by late 2017, 43 percent of Syrian children in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq still don’t have access to an education. KidsRights said failing to educate Syrian children would lead to a “lost generation” and seriously impact efforts to rebuild the country now entering its eighth year of war.

Strong message from a powerful source

The letter is signed by Mohamad Al Junde, International Children’s Peace Prize winner 2017, representing all International Children’s Peace Prize winners. Mohamad was awarded this prize for his efforts to provide access to education for refugee children. Mohamad, a Syrian 17 year old youth who fled to Lebanon with his family as a child, is an inspiring example of the crucial importance of access to education. Like thousands of other Syrian refugee children, Mohamad could not go to school. He set out to provide them with education himself by building a school in a refugee camp. This school, located in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, now educates 200 children.

Read the full letter below: 

Kids Rights Foundation
Amsterdam, April 20, 2018

Your Excellency,

More than 40% of all school-aged Syrian children living in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq still do not have access to education. Two years after the Supporting Syria Conference in London, where international donors and governments of host countries made the commitment to provide education for all 1.7 million Syrian school-aged children by the end of 2017, we have to conclude that this goal is even further away than it was in 2016.

This April, the international donors and host governments meet again for a second Brussels conference. We are severely worried that if the international donors and host governments do not step up their efforts to get Syria’s young generation into school, the damage done by being out of school for years, is irreversible. We urge you to prioritize the access and quality of education for Syrian children and youth, while discussing the support for countries affected by the conflict in Syria later this month in Brussels. The report The Widening Educational Gap for Syrian Refugee Children that is accompanying this letter, describes a number of obstacles that have led to an increasing number of children who are currently out of school, of which the most important are:

Systematic underfunding
The education sector, for years, has been one of the least funded sectors in the overall humanitarian budgets. The UN and partners urgently need US$603 million to fill the 72% funding gap. The lack of resources is leading to overburdened public school systems in host countries, insufficient school buildings, a shortage of teachers, poor teacher trainings, and unavailability of appropriate catch-up programs for children who have been out of school, including language classes.

Vulnerable families
As an increasing number of refugees are living in extreme poverty and are heaped with debts, many families can hardly survive and are no longer able to keep their children in school. Whereas governments have waived school fees, parents are often no longer able to keep their children into school for financial reasons. The poor access to education services for Syrian children cannot be seen separate from the weak economic position of their families. Restrictive policies are making it difficult or simply undoable for parents to obtain work permits, who are consequently no longer able to buy school materials or pay for transportation to school. Especially in extremely vulnerable families, children are often obliged to support the family income through child labour.

Administrative burdens
Although many administrative barriers are formally removed by host governments, for example the required residency permits for public schools, in practice parents and children are either not informed about new regulations or these are not implemented by schools. Also long period to get through the administrative procedures to obtain ID cards is keeping children out of school.
Syria’s future is in the hands of young Syrians. We need to support them. Not only for the future of their country and the region, but also for the lives that are ahead of them and their future families.

Yours Sincerely,

Mohamad Al-Jounde (Winner International Children’s Peace Prize 2017)
On behalf of the International Children’s Peace Prize Winners