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Living on hope, hoping for education: the failed response to the Syrian refugee crisis

Research report

Written by Kevin Watkins, Steven A Zyck

Research report

​Four years into the Syrian crisis, over half a million Syrian refugee children are out of school – and the numbers are rising. The education crisis is fuelling an epidemic of child labour and early marriage.

Lost educational opportunity risks driving young people into radicalised groups, including ISIS. That risk is most severe in Lebanon, where just one in five school-age Syrian refugee children is in formal education  – an enrolment rate below that of sub-Saharan Africa.

Public schools in Lebanon cannot cope: the school-age refugee population exceeds the current intake of the country’s public schools and an over-stretched and under-resourced system faces acute pressure.

Donors have failed to act on commitments to ensure that there is ‘No Lost Generation’ of refugees: the UN’s inter-agency, regional education response is $235 million short of the (inadequate) funding levels requested for 2014. Less than half of the aid required for Lebanon’s Reach All Children with Education (RACE) strategy to deliver education to refugees and vulnerable Lebanese is in place, jeopardising education prospects for up to a quarter of a million children.

This paper calls for the full financing of education requests set out in the Regional Response Plan and of UNICEF’s education programmes. The RACE strategy in Lebanon needs donor support of around $200 million annually for the next three years. A pooled fund would provide predictable finance to support the strategy, and would demonstrate donor commitment to educational opportunity as a humanitarian imperative, and as a priority for security, social stability and economic recovery.

Kevin Watkins and Steven A. Zyck