The Syrian refugee education crisis continues to loom worldwide as students desperate to continue their studies have few options and little, if any, support.
Amer Horani’s status as a student was a tremendous source of pride for him until he was driven out of Syria because of the war. He had been the first person in his family to attend college when he entered Damascus University in 2012. Horani was studying psychology, and he looked forward to using his education to assist others.
Then one day, a friend of his who was also a student disappeared.
“The army came for him. I never saw him again,” the 22-year-old told VOA.
John Owens reports for Voice of America that when Horani lost his friend, he decided to leave Syria and his studies, which he had started only eight months before. As a refugee, Horani was forced to give up his education.
“Everything is bad here,” said Horani, who now works in a small convenience store in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
Lebanon is a country in which more than a million refugees struggle daily against discrimination, poor living conditions, and barriers to finding employment. Horani says he feels as though he has lost everything even though he has done nothing wrong, is not a criminal, and is not a bad person. He adds that he just wants to study.
Of the 250,000 Syrian students in college or university, some estimate that up to 200,000 have been forced out of the war-ridden country. The challenges that are keeping refugees from getting back to their educations include lack of money, language issues, and loss of documentation.
“This is the most challenging higher education emergency we have ever faced,” acknowledged the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) president, Allan Goodman.
The media has reported on the struggles of Syrians to get to Europe, but more than 4.5 million are living currently in the nearby countries of Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. These nations are attempting to provide the necessary assistance and help.
Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and several UN entities are discussing the possibility of providing 300 scholarships this year. In total, an estimated 10,000 Syrians are enrolled in university programs in Lebanon, a possible 5,000 are in school in Turkey, and almost 1,000 scholarships are being offered.
Additionally, it is estimated that approximately 1 million Syrian refugee children are not in school because of funding problems. Children’s charity TheirWorld reports that the young people have received just roughly €350 million of the €1.2 billion that had been promised at a London donors’ conference in February, according to EuroNews.
The prospect of receiving an education, says Overseas Development Institute Executive Director Kevin Watkins, can save these kids from being forced into child labor, early marriage, and even recruitment into extremist organizations.
Lucy Westcott of Newsweek cited a TheirWorld report that states Syrian children are in danger of becoming a “lost generation.” The failure of the international community to fund refugee education has been criticized by the United Nations General Assembly and two high-level summits.
Currently, over 65 million people around the world are displaced. This number is the largest in recorded history, and the Syrian war is a major factor in this displacement.
Kevin Watkins writes for ProjectSyndicate that the Syrian children’s education crisis is on par with the US elementary school system suddenly being tasked with absorbing all of the children in the country of Mexico.
The next refugee summit will be held in September and will be hosted by the UN and the US. Watkins says countries worldwide need to leave their promises at home and come with well-established plans to give the $1.4 billion they previously pledged. The money must also be delivered in a safe and reliable manner. Watkins says:
“Before heading for the UN summit treadmill next month, governments should review the promises they made at the London conference. And they should recall Nelson Mandela’s dictum: ‘Promises to children should never be broken.’”