There is more to focus on than just the US and EU vs. Syria debate these days. As political military issues rise, so has the issue of providing adequate education to the next generation of Syrians. Let's not forget the civilians affected within Syria and outside.
Being a good neighbor is beginning to take a toll on Syrian’s neighboring countries and limited public resources, including impact on some of the most crucial parts of society: education. Countries such as Lebanon are facing unprecedented problems this school year as the number of Syrian refugees now outnumber the Lebanese students in public schools, causing a shift not only in educational resources, but the quality of education as well.
The increasing conflicts in Syria have forced the amount of fleeing Syrians to double in the last six months to over two million registered refugees, according to the European Union. Over 700,000 have been displaced in Lebanon, the smallest neighboring country which holds the most refugees than any other bordering country. Dana Suleiman, media official at the United Nations Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) reports 300,000 of those registered refugees are students who fled to Lebanon. The United Nations Children’s Fund believes that the amount of displaced Syrian students will reach half a million in Lebanon alone by the end of 2013.
While the Lebanon Ministry of Education has declared to open to all students, the capacity to hold the Syrian students is proving to be a major issue. In Arsal, Lebanon, the Arsal Public Middle School created a program last March to hold a second shift of afternoon classes to accommodate the overflow of refugee children. For the cost of $136 per term, per student, Syrian students are able to attend classes in the afternoon with books and supplies. The UNHCR and other partners have been funding these costs, however the sharp increase of refugees displaced in Lebanon makes this program will not solve the problem through the rest of the country.
“The impact of the conflict is staggering, but despite what these children have had to endure in the past, they need to be given a real chance to further their education and not become a lost generation,” said Linda Kojasaas, UNHCR education expert.
In addition to the limited opportunities to pursue education, some Syrian students are unable to attend school consistently or full time because some are needed to work by their families or elsewhere. Those that are able to attend have a learning curve with the Lebanese school system and learning French.
The Lebanese government hopes to have 60% of refugee children in school, but it is proving to be a high bar to meet. While some countries such as Germany have opened their doors to sponsor 5,000 Syrian refugees, The United Nations are calling for additional help from other countries to provide relief to other host countries and the next generation.