The United Nations has announced that an extra $250 million of emergency funding for the education of Syrian refugee children has been gathered from the European Union and contributors from the Gulf countries. The funding will allow for school places for a million refugee children in need.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in his current capacity as UN Special Envoy for Global Education, has been calling for urgent actions to bring Syrian refugee children back to school. Last week he appealed for additional $500 million to ensure the education of nearly half of the two million Syrian pupils based in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Brown's ambitious aim is to bring back to school all two million refugee children by 2017.
At the moment, about 207,000 Syrian pupils attend Lebanese schools thanks to the so-called "double shift" plan. The refugee children attend schools in the afternoon and in the evenings after local children have finished school for the day. With enough funding, the number of Syrian children in schools in Turkey can be doubled to 400,000 in 2016.
Their number in Jordan can be increased from the current 130,000 to 200,000 in coming months. By the end of 2017, every single refugee child from Syria should be able to attend school whether it is in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan.
According to Brown, providing sufficient education for kids will keep the region's people closer to home. Reuters reports that it is among the strongest alternatives to their families fleeing to Europe and risking their lives. The former Prime Minister commented:
"Unless we can provide chances for children, every day new families will decide the only hope for their children's future is to leave for Europe," he added.
Those children are not only missing school — they are missing learning new skills, training and future job opportunities. Brown also said that when he was Prime Minister and a leader of G-20 in 2009, $1 trillion had to be accumulated to support the global economy. He expressed his certainty that it was now possible to gather $500 million, a much smaller sum, for such an important humanitarian cause.
Brown will continue raising money at the upcoming World Economic Forum in Switzerland. He will also attend the international conference for Syria during the first week of February where he will call for more action:
"Unless we take action to deliver educational opportunity then we have thousands of children on the streets, they are vulnerable to child trafficking, they are vulnerable, obviously, to radical extremism," Brown said.
According to a recent survey conducted by the organization Girls Not Brides, the child marriage rate among Syrian refugee girls has doubled from 12 percent to 26 percent, The Associated Press reports.
The war in Syria, continuing into its sixth year, has led to the most severe refugee crisis Europe has experienced in its contemporary history. Millions of Syrian people have headed through the long and dangerous path to Europe in search of a more secure future. Many Syrian refugee children have not entered a classroom since they left home, writes Sean Coughlan of the BBC.
Along with basic needs like food and medical care, they also need educational training. Brown also warned that if the world remained silent on this issue, many Syrian children would reach adulthood without ever having attained basic primary education.