Lebanon is no stranger to refugees even long before the Syrian conflict. But now despite earnest efforts, the huge influx of refugees from Syria has put enormous pressure on Lebanese infrastructure.
A report , published on Tuesday by Human Rights Watch, confirms that more than 250,000 Syrian Refugee children in Lebanon between the ages of 15 and 18, do not have access to education. Less than 3% were enrolled in a Lebanese public school in the academic year 2015/16.
The many obstacles faced
At one refugee camp in the Bekaa valley, many of the children now face a life without education. There are many reasons for this, including the costs, barriers to enrollment, intimidation and harassment. Whilst the Lebanese government has enacted some policies to help, including Reaching All Children with Education (RACE) without more international support and funding it is difficult to see how Lebanon will reach its goal of enrolling 440,000 Syrian children in schools by 2020. International aid has not been forthcoming, the $1.87 billion Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, designed to address the country’s refugee crisis, was only 62.8 percent funded in 2015. According to the report, “lost revenue due to the war in Syria and the burden of hosting refugees have cost Lebanon an estimated US$13.1 billion.”
LEBANON- A Syrian refugee sits with his children in a makeshift tent in a refugee camp in Kab Elias. By
Patrick_Baz</a> <a href="https://t.co/l1D218ExyB">pic.twitter.com/l1D218ExyB</a></p>— AFP Photo Department (AFPphoto) June 20, 2016
Saddam Al Jassem, a Syrian child talked to reporters about his experiences:
“I don’t like school, they don’t teach us, and they hit us. I stopped school 7 months ago. I want to work, live, provide money for the house and family. We want to eat. I want to buy and play on my bike, and play football.”
The Human Rights Watch report reveals that even well-intentioned policies are being unevenly applied and that for girls and disabled children the situation is particularly arduous. Lebanese public schools reject disabled pupils citing lack of resources.
.— Shantha Rau Barriga (@ShanthaHRW) July 19, 2016
HRW</a> found refugee kids w disabilities turned away from schools in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Lebanon?src=hash">#Lebanon</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Bassam_Khawaja">Bassam_Khawaja https://t.co/rHwAyKAch8 pic.twitter.com/6OM2oTTVS5
Some families don’t dare to even attempt to enroll their children for fear of being arrested since they do not hold the obligatory residency permits.
Bassam Khawaja of Human Rights Watch said:
“We are calling on the Lebanese government to immediately revise its residency regulations, specifically by waving the annual 200 US dollar fee for Syrians to maintain their legal status, the requirement to either sign a pledge not to work or to provide a Lebanese sponsor.”
More than 280,000 people have died as a result of the Syrian conflict since March 2011 and over half the country’s inhabitants have fled.
Without access to education the children affected will have little hope of acquiring the skills to play a positive role in their host countries or in the reconstruction and future of Syria, the report also said.