The continuing conflict in Syria is taking a heavy toll on education, as thousands of Syrian families take their children out of school and flee across the border to seek refuge. Recognizing their needs, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners last week launched the Syria Regional Response Plan, one of whose aims is to ensure that refugee children can continue their schooling in host countries. We highlighted the global impact of conflict on education – and the need to pay much more attention to the education needs of refugee children – in the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report: The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education.
According to the Regional Response Plan, the ongoing crisis in Syria has left over 40,000 Syrians, many of whom are women and children, with no other option but to flee the country. The inter-agency response plan is led by UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, which estimates that it will need to support 100,000 refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq in the next six months.
That is not counting the internally displaced in Syria. While the rights of refugees are enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, internally displaced people are not protected by such legally binding principles. Accurate numbers of displaced are difficult to ascertain, and it is reported to be difficult for agencies to reach them. Schools have closed and health centres have shut down or become too dangerous for families to reach. A separate appeal for the humanitarian needs inside Syria is expected in the near future from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The Regional Response Plan, which allocates about 15% of sectorial aid to education, provides for agencies including UNICEF, UNESCO and Save the Children to rent and refurbish schools, train education personnel in dealing with the special needs of refugee children, supply equipment and cover tuition and textbook fees, among other expenses.