Q&A on Syrian children and education in Lebanon
How many refugee and migrant children are there around the world?
Globally, at least 28 million children have been driven from their homes by violence and conflict within and across borders. In 2015, just two countries – Syria and Afghanistan – accounted for nearly half of all child refugees. Lebanon and Jordan host the largest number of refugees relative to their populations. Today, one in four people in Lebanon is a refugee, and half of all refugees in Lebanon are children.
How many Syrian children are out of school in Lebanon?
Currently, 187,427 school aged children from Syria are out of school, or 49 per cent of all registered Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. Globally, refugee children are five more times likely to be out of school than other children.
How can you help a Syrian child that has never been to school or has been out of school for years?
The longer a child is out of school, the greater the likelihood that he or she will never return. The most common reason for Syrian children not going to school in Lebanon is economic; children need work to support their parents and siblings. Your support to UNICEF can help children enrol in school and get their education. UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education to provide free access to public schools in Lebanon. For children who have missed years of schooling, UNICEF and its partners run an Accelerated Learning Program so that children can catch-up and re-enter the formal school system.
You can support these efforts by donating via our Care & Share page.
Why should education be prioritized during a crisis like the one caused by the conflict in Syria?
Schooling in times of conflict is crucial for a number of reasons. In fact, when asked, most Syrian parents and children will say that education is among their biggest priorities.
- For one, schools provide much needed sense of routine and normalcy.
- Secondly, when children go to school they are less likely to be exploited, abused, attacked or forced to work; schools are vital to fight child labour, early marriage and injustice.
- Thirdly, schools provide a sense of community and raise responsible individuals who can build or rebuild societies.
- Fourth, schools provide hope for the future and educate better informed individuals who will fare better in life.
In conclusion, failure to meet children’s basic right of education destroys their hope of a normal childhood and limits their future potential.
Why do some of the children you interviewed about child labour have bruises and scars?
Syrian refugee families in Lebanon are living in dire situations and the number of children who need to work to support their family is on the rise. Many children are exploited and suffer physical abuse. They often do manual hard labour and carry out physically demanding tasks that even adults would find challenging. The working conditions are often harmful to the children’s health or pose a direct danger to children. Hazardous working conditions may explain why some of the children interviewed had cuts, blisters and bruises on their hands and arms.
How can UNICEF tackle child labour when Syrian children are often breadwinners of families?
Living in extreme poverty and facing their own barriers to employment, Syrian parents are often left with no other choice other than to send their children to work. In other words, when children work, it is a simple question of survival. UNICEF is working to prevent child labour by advocating for fewer working hours and for children to be spared from tough physical labour, providing alternative ways of making an income, improving access to schools and providing health services and non-formal education to children who are working. UNICEF is also strengthening child protection mechanisms and services in Lebanon and has on-going dialogue with children, their parents and employers regarding the harms of child labour.
Do Syrian refugees in Lebanon have to pay for their children’s education?
No, public school fees are covered by UNICEF through the Ministry of Education. The Accelerated Learning Program is also free of charge.
What are the requirements for a Syrian child to enroll in a Lebanese public school?
A Syrian child only needs to bring an ID. If a child has been out of school for a while, they might have to complete a placement test to determine which grade they should register for.
How do Syrian students adapt to the Lebanese curricula?
Language remains one of the major hurdles Syrian children face in Lebanese public schools. In Lebanon, certain subjects are taught in French and English at an early age, as opposed to classes in Syria that are taught in Arabic. Therefore, children not only have to keep up with their lessons, but also need to learn a new language. Syrian parents are often unable to help children with their homework if it is in English or French. UNICEF and its partners provide homework support programs so that children are able to succeed in school.
How is UNICEF addressing violence in schools that some of the children brought up during the interviews?
UNICEF, together with Lebanese authorities, trains teachers on the issues of improving their performance and preventing violence and discrimination in schools. Next year, for the first time, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education will provide specialized staff for psychosocial support in public school across the country to address violence and provide assistance. More broadly, UNICEF supports poor Lebanese communities that have few resources, but have nonetheless received large numbers of Syrian refugees. In doing so, UNICEF helps reduce social tensions and enhance cohesion by providing education services to all refugees and maintaining quality services for host populations.
What happens if a child has special needs?
The child can still be enrolled; the school and its teachers will try to meet his or her needs to the extent possible. If a child has more severe disabilities, he or she can be referred to specialized programs.
How come some of the children mention WhatsApp or mobile applications, considering how poor Syrian refugee families are?
Mobile phones are the main lifeline for relatives and family in Syria and elsewhere. Smartphones are also relatively cheap nowadays. Within the refugee community in Lebanon, there is often at least one smartphone per every one or two families.
What if Syrian children and teenagers prefer vocational and technical education and or on-the-job trainings?
Students between 13 and 21 years who have completed grade seven can enroll in formal vocational education in any of the 141 technical and vocational public schools run by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Agriculture. UNICEF and partners pay the tuition fees. In addition, the two ministries, together with non-governmental organizations and training institutes, offer certified non-formal vocational and skills courses, often linked to on-the job trainings.
Why have so many of the children you interviewed never been to school?
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian children haven’t had access to education due to years of conflict where schools have been attacked, closed or taken over, and displaced families have fled violence. Many left the violence-ravaged country before reaching school age and once in a neighboring country as refugees, they often fell through the cracks. More than 30,000 Syrian children have been born in Lebanon since conflict broke out in Syria, and are now reaching school age, according to UNHCR. Many have not had access to pre-schools or kindergartens.
What does UNICEF do to improve Syrian children’s access to education in Lebanon?
UNICEF covers public school fees of all school-aged children in the country. Moreover, it provides stationery, homework support and, in some cases, transport. UNICEF also runs an Accelerated Learning Program, rehabilitates schools and provides heating in certain schools during the cold winter months. Additionally, UNICEF offers alternative informal education and vocational training. UNICEF also provides support to Lebanon’s educational institutions in enhancing teacher capacities and school environments to deal with the added load of Syrian refugee children.
You can support these efforts by donating via our Care & Share page.
How well are Lebanese public schools prepared to take on hundreds and thousands of Syrian students?
Close to half a million Syrian children aged 3-17 now reside in Lebanon and have the right to receive an education. All 1,283 public schools in the country have opened their doors, of which 317 complete two shifts per day in order to accommodate all students, both Lebanese and Syrian. The Lebanese government has shown incredible hospitality by opening its schools to Syrian refugees, but the effort cannot be sustained without international support and a commitment to improve the educational system not only for refugee children but for all children in Lebanon.
Why and how are refugee children discriminated against?
Refugee children are at particular risk of abuse and detention because they often have no documentation, face an uncertain legal status and struggle due to a lack of systematic tracking and monitoring for their well-being. These barriers often cause refugee children to fall through the cracks, negatively impacting their educations. Protracted crises, like the one in Syria, make things worse. Refugee children are most likely to encounter discrimination in school settings, often in the form of insults, unfair treatment, exclusion and threats. Outside of the classroom, legal barriers prevent refugee and migrant children from receiving services on an equal basis with children who are native to a country. Experience also tells us that refugee movements are strongly linked to increased trafficking and exploitation.
Why do some of the children portrayed in the class photos talk about early marriages and kidnappings?
Many Syrian refugee children have personally dealt with the issue of child marriages and kidnappings in Syria, so their answers reflect their own realities. Early marriage is one of many negative coping mechanisms some Syrian refugee families fall back on as a last resort if they either cannot afford to feed their children or see it as a way of protecting young girls by getting them out of informal refugee settlements. As for kidnappings, it’s important to remember that parts of Syria are active battlefields where children have witnessed things no child should ever have to see. Children in Syria have been subjected to the gravest violations of their basic rights, including the destruction of or barred access to schools and hospitals. UNICEF monitors violations against children all over the world and reports them to the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
What has UNICEF achieved until now in terms of education for Syrian children in Lebanon?
More than half of UNICEF’s budget in Lebanon is devoted to education. UNICEF’s work on education is the largest educational intervention worldwide.
- The agency provides every child in public school — regardless of nationality — with stationery, school books and school bags.
- To children who are at risk of dropping out, UNICEF provides homework support.
- UNICEF covered registration and school fees last scholastic year for the very first time. By doing so, it removed the financial hurdle that had been difficult to overcome for many Lebanese and Syrian families. This school year — in addition to paying fees for grades 1-7 — UNICEF now pays the fees of Syrian students accessing secondary education. UNICEF also covers vocational training in public schools.
- UNICEF has supported the Lebanese educational system in taking on the considerable added burden of an additional 150,000 children, partly by improving the quality of the education system and boosting its capacity.
- UNICEF provides transportation to certain children who face challenges in commuting to schools.
- UNICEF runs an Accelerated Learning Programme for children who have been out of school for two or more years.
That said, there are still around 180,000 Syrian children out of school in Lebanon.
What are “Child Friendly Spaces” that some of the children mention in the interviews?
A UNICEF Child Friendly Space is a safe place where children can learn and play during emergencies. Child friendly spaces provide protection and help children regain a sense of normalcy. They offer a variety of community based, structured activities in a stimulating environment similar to kindergartens or schools. They can also provide health or psychosocial services. Thousands of children attend one of the more than 200 static and mobile Spaces daily in Lebanon run by UNICEF and its partners.
Who are UNICEF’s main education donors?
Our main donors are the European Union and the governments of Germany, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Estonia. UNICEF’s education appeal for 2016/2017 is around $300 million US dollars. These funds will help UNICEF support the registration and enrollment of over 200,000 Syrian children in Lebanese schools and provide them with school supplies. The funds will also support reforms to the Lebanese education system so that all children in Lebanon can receive a high quality education.