Barriers to education for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon
Multiple obstacles are keeping Syrian refugee children in Lebanon out of school despite the efforts of the UN refugee agency and the Lebanese government to integrate them into the country’s educational system.
Of the Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon, nearly 500,000 are between the ages of 3 and 18, considered school-aged by Lebanon’s Education Ministry. However, only about 150,000 of these children have enrolled in public schools for the 2015-16 school years, according to the ministry, underlining concerns about an entire generation of Syrian children who are growing up without education.
Although Lebanon, which hosts 1.1 million registered Syrian refugees, has allowed Syrian children to enrol for free in public schools, Lebanese policies on residency and work for Syrians are keeping children out of the classroom.
More than 90 percent of the Syrian refugee families are in debt, which has left the parents with no choice but to send their children to work, said Lisa Abou Khaled, the public information officer for UNHCR Lebanon.
Current resources are not sufficient to reach all the school-age refugee children from Syria, and many of them also face difficulties in keeping up with the Lebanese curriculum because of language barriers, said Khaled.
The Lebanese government has taken steps to ease restrictions on school enrolment for Syrian refugee children. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), UNHCR, and international donors have also launched an initiative to support the out-of-school children.
However, the shortage of funds remains the biggest challenge. As of now, only about a third of the 24.8 billion U.S. dollars needed this year to provide formal education to the remainder of the Syrian children has been secured.
The Lebanese government and humanitarian agencies have been called to address the broader obstacles that are preventing children from continuing their education.