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School's out for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

Most Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are out school and left behind in life [AFP]

Date of publication: 19 July, 2016

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More than a quarter of a million Syrian children are unable to attend school in Lebanon, due mostly to financial reasons, a recent report by Human Rights Watch has stated.
More than 250,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are not attending classes, according Human Rights Watch said this week.

This means that only half of the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon of school age are in formal schooling with some never attending a class in their lives.

"The high number of refugee children out of school is an immediate crisis," the New York-based watchdog warned. "Some have never stepped inside a classroom."

The problem is particularly acute among children aged 15-18, with just three percent enrolled in Lebanon's public schools during the 2015-2016 school year, according to HRW.

Lost childhoods

The Lebanese government and international donors are working at increasing enrolment among the more than 1 million Syrians who have taken refuge in the country since the war began in March 2011.

But although schools are open to them, poverty appears to be one of the main barriers for Syrian children.

The cost of transportation for students, bullying and harassment, and insufficient spaces and teachers to accommodate Syrian refugees are all underlining factors.

"We can't afford to put them in school here. All my children were studying in Syria, but if I would put them in school here, how would I live?" said Muna, 45, from Mount Lebanon.

"We would have to buy them clothes and pay for transportation. Even if everything was free, the children couldn't go to school. They are the only ones that can work."
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Another Syrian living in northern Lebanon echoed these concerns.

"The kids' education has gone backward. They don't have a future. We left our country and our homes and now they don’t even have an education or a future," said Jawaher, aged 24.
But access to education is crucial to help refugee children overcome the trauma of war and burden of displacement.

It is vital that they gain the skills they need to play a positive role in host countries like Lebanon and in the eventual reconstruction and future of Syria, Human Rights Watch said, particularly as the war drags on over the border.

Financial constraints

Many families are also constrained by their expired residency permits, which are costly to renew.

Without papers, they are afraid to move around or send their children to school for fear of arrest.

The group also noted that the Lebanese government was continuing to prevent Syrian teachers from working, despite a shortage of Lebanese teachers.
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Human Rights Watch suggested hiring Syrian teachers, and allowing Syrians to renew their expired residency documents for free.

It also urged donors to provide additional funding for expanding and rehabilitating schools, hiring teachers, and subsidising student transportation.

"It is unlikely that Syrian children will be able to realise their right to an education unless Lebanon undertakes reforms that go beyond the framework of its current education policies and receives increased donor funding," HRW said.

"I wish he was learning. I don't want him working. If you don't know how to read, you're lost. It's like me, I don't know how to read and I'm lost. No mother would ever accept that her son stay in the dark," said Ilham, another Syrian mother aged 30 said.

Agencies contributed to this story

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