LEBANON — More half of the 500,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are not receiving a formal education. Limited resources and strict residency rules for Syrian refugees have been the central reasons why a quarter of a million Syrian refugee children haven’t been able to attend a Lebanese classroom. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have issued reports on the Syrian education crisis in Lebanon.
The HRW released an 87-page report outlining Lebanon’s significant advances to enroll Syrian children into public education. Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education waived enrollment fees and the requirement to provide proof of legal residency. They also opened “second shift” classes in 238 public schools in to provide Syrian children with education. Despite these efforts, thousands of Syrian children are still out of school.
The UNHCR reported that 70 percent of Syrian refugees within Lebanon live below the poverty line. The high percentage of impoverished refugees is a byproduct of harsh regulations that impede most refugees from working and living legally within Lebanon, and poverty makes it a significant challenge to meet enrollment requirements.
Parents cannot finance books, materials and the cost of transportation needed for their children to attend school. Transportation presents one of the most difficult challenges for parents because most schools aren’t located near areas of need. When a school is located one-and-a-half hours away from a child, it may cost her family 50,000 Lebanese pounds ($33 per month) for transportation.
In response to the immense amount of poverty within the Syrian refugee communities, child labor is often perpetuated in order to help pay for rent and food. The need to survive is larger than the need to receive an education, which inclines children to partake in labor versus developing their minds.
Syrian children are also bullied at school, which encourages them to drop out or have their parents pull them out of school. HRW reported, “Thirty families told HRW that their children faced bullying and harassment, including on the basis of national origin, and nine families said their children were physically attacked by other children.”
The solution to the education crisis for Syrian refugees in Lebanon begins and ends with the revaluation of the residency regulations. Once adults are able to join the work force and actually generate a profit, children will have the opportunity to take full advantage of the Lebanese public education system.
In the meantime, providing non-formal education within the areas of need is the key to preventing children from lagging behind while a more permanent solution is made to provide education for all Syrian refugee children.
– Mariana Camacho López