Living on Hope, Hoping for Education: The Failed Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Authored by: Kevin Watkins and Steven A. Zyck

Categories: Human Rights
Sub-Categories: Human Development, Migration
Country: Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt
Region: Middle East and North Africa
Year: 2014
Citation: Watkins, Kevin and Steven A. Zyck. Living on Hope, Hoping for Education: The Failed Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis. London: Overseas Development Institute, 2014. Accessed January 3, 2017.

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Executive Summary

In this call to action, ODI highlights the degree to which the “education crisis” with respect to Syrian refugees has been overlooked. It gives an overview of the Syrian refugee crisis and then focuses on the education crisis among Syrian reugees in Lebanon. “Syria’s children have suffered a reversal in educational opportunity that is without parallel in recent history” (2). “The alarming rise in child labour and early marriage seen among Syrian refugees is both a symptom and a cause of the reversal in education” (2). This report argues that without opportunities to continue their schooling, young Syrians will migrate to the margins of society and be more vulnerable to being drawn into extremist political groups (2). The situation for refugees in Lebanon has been deteriorating as tensions between refugees and host communities have been rising. This unstable environment is a breeding ground for extremist groups like ISIS. Although education is not a silver bullet against extremism, the hope that it provides can combat “the appeal of groups that feed off of despair and resentment” (2). International aid organizations have been slow to respond to the education crisis facing Syrian refugees. There is also a growing sense of “fatalism” among donors. “Agencies appear to have given up on the vast majority of Syrian refugee children and have set their sights on helping only a small fraction of the total out-of-school population” (2). Just 41% of the money requested for education in the Syrian Regional Response Plane (RRP) was provided as of the middle of 2014. These funding gaps are particularly damaging to education as schools require advance commitments before the start of the school year to train teachers, provide books, extend classrooms, and put in place new systems to accommodate the specific needs of refugees. These funding gaps are larger than they seem because the RRP requests are not based on an assessment of overall need, but on a calculation of what aid agencies and governments may be able to deliver taking into consideration various constraints (3). Despite donor commitment at high-level meetings, a lost-generation is emerging and thus a strengthened donor response is vital.