Congo. Syria. Afghanistan. Somalia. Sudan. What do these countries have in common? Refugees. More specifically, 62% of the world’s refugees come from these five countries.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 60 million refugees and internally displaced people in the world. A majority of refugees are concentrated in the Middle East: a third of the world’s refugees come from Syria and Iraq alone where civil wars and the Islamic State have driven people from their homes.
Housing, feeding, and educating 60 million refugees has posed an unprecedented problem for the world. Countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have absorbed the majority of Syrian refugees. They are struggling to provide the resources that these people need, especially when it comes to education.
For example, Lebanon houses 800,000 Syrian, 270,000 of which are school-age children. 80% of these kids are not in school. The story is the same in Jordan. Of the half million refugees living in Jordan (187,675 of which are school-age children), 56% of children are not receiving any type of formal education.
There are a multitude of factors keeping Syrian refugee children out of school.Language barriers, isolation, high school fees, or just the fact there aren’t enough schools or teachers to keep up with demand are all contributing to the disparity. There’s also the added problem of kids who have gaps in their education because civil wars or other events made them miss months, even years of school. These kids have fallen behind their peers, and require remedial classes to catch up, which are not readily available.
Having a large population of kids who are not in school also creates a huge child labor problem. Many kids in refugee camps end up working up to 16 hours a day in low skill jobs to help provide for their families. For older children (12 years and up) who have a gap in their education, going back to school to catch up isn’t as big of a priority as working to support their families. In some cases children, most often boys, have the burden of being the primary breadwinner for their families since their parents cannot find steady work.
With millions of children out of school, and with no end in sight to the civil war, Syria risks having a generation of undereducated citizens. As world literacy day approaches, let’s remember the huge difference even a primary education makes. An education is the difference between a child living in poverty for the rest of their lives, or having the tools they need to gain a voice in their community and a lead a better quality of life.
You can TAKE ACTION NOW by urging world leaders to prioritize education for the world's most marginalized populations.