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Education without Borders - a summary

Research report

Written by Kevin Watkins

Research report

  • The humanitarian response the conflict in Syria has fundamentally failed to address the education crisis facing Syria’s children. Business as usual will create a lost generation of over 2 million children denied an opportunity for learning. The bottom line for the international community should be a simple principle: Syria’s children have suffered enough and should not have to bear the brunt of a crisis that is not of their making.

  • Lebanon is on the front-line of the refugee education crisis. While the government has demonstrated enormous generosity in opening the country’s schools, there are some 300,000 refugee children out of school – and that number could reach half-a-million over the next year. If Syria’s refugee children were a country, they would have the world’s lowest enrolment rate. Current enrolment levels for primary school age children are around one- fifth of the average for sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Providing education for all of Syria’s refugee children will require an international response and strengthened partnerships. Lebanon’s public education system, like other essential services, is under acute pressure. Absorbing all refugees would be equivalent to a city like London having to cater for the combined school populations of Manchester and Birmingham; or New York having to cope with an influx equivalent to the entire school populations of Washington D.C. and Chicago. This is not a challenge that can be met through short term humanitarian appeals, which are already heavily under-funded.

  • Economic pressures are adding to adjustment costs, reinforcing the need for international support. Research from the World Bank suggests that the spill-over effects of the Syrian crisis will cut economic growth by 2.8 per cent a year, costing Lebanon US$7.5bn in lost GDP over the period 2012-2014 and widening an already large fiscal deficit. The crisis is also set to double unemployment, to over 20 per cent, adding to already acute labour market pressures. There is a real danger that these economic pressures will fuel potentially explosive social and political tensions. The refugee crisis has placed an immense strain on health, education, water and energy services, and on vulnerable host communities. The international response should include scaled-up support aimed at maintaining the quality of public education, while at the same time providing predictable funding for NGOs equipped to increase coverage.

  • We propose an international plan of action to mobilise US$165m annually over three years, or just under US$500m. Within the proposed framework, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) should provide US$150m over three years, with bilateral donors, regional governments and philanthropic bodies delivering the remainder. 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.

Kevin Watkins