Gordon Brown to ask for $500m for Syrian refugees’ schooling in Lebanon
Gordon Brown is to call on the international community to provide $500m (£312m) to pay for schooling for 300,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon amid fears that the number of displaced children could reach 500,000 by next year.
The former prime minister will present a report in New York on Monday which shows the education burden placed on Lebanon by refugee children is the equivalent of London having to find school places for every pupil in Birmingham and Manchester.
Brown will tell donors, meeting alongside a gathering of the UN general assembly to discuss Syria, that there is a risk of an entire generation being left without education unless extra financial help is mobilised.
“Typically, children in conflict zones and broken-down states have been provided with food and shelter as refugees, but few receive any education,” Brown is to say. “Now, 300,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon could be the first trapped in conflict zones to be granted a universal right to schooling. If these children suffer the typical exile of children in conflict, they could spend 10 years in camps and tents, making their generation one without education.”
Brown will say the plan breaks through traditional barriers to education for child refugees. In addition to keeping schools open longer, it would involve hiring Syrian refugees as teachers in Arabic in community colleges and the provision of school meals “to tackle hunger as we tackle illiteracy”. He will add: “But this can happen only if the international community, which has so far financed less than 30% of the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, offers an additional $500m over three years.”
The report was prepared for Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, by the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based thinktank. Kevin Watkins, the ODI’s director, said: “If Lebanon’s refugee children were a country, they would have the world’s lowest enrolment rate.”
The ODI report said that Lebanon had shown enormous generosity in opening its schools to refugee children from Syria, but its education system was under acute pressure. It warned that the number of refugees of school age was on course to rise from 300,000 to 500,000 over the next year, and that the total number of children having their schooling affected by the civil war could hit two million. Enrolment rates of Syrian refugees in Lebanon were below 10% – three or four times lower than in the countries with the worst records, such as South Sudan or Eritrea.
“The international community has to step up to the plate, Syria’s refugee children have suffered enough,” Watkins said. “They should not lose their right to education.”
Brown’s international plan of action is intended to mobilise $165m annually over three years. The proposal calls on the Global Partnership for Education, the multilateral body dedicated to improving access to schooling, to provide $150m over three years, with bilateral donors, regional governments and philanthropic bodies delivering the remainder.
The ODI said: “Because of the political situation and difficult public financial management environment, consideration should be given to the creation of a pooled fund jointly managed by government and donors. The framework should include provisions for Palestinian refugees.”