For two years now Children on the Edge has been supporting education for Syrian refugee children in small settlements in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. With a vastly overstretched national education system, there have not been enough school places available for refugees in the Government schools, making informal ‘camp schools’ a crucial part of providing education for Syrian refugee children.
With the support of UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Bank and bilateral donors, this September the Lebanese Ministry of Education launched a nationwide 'Back to School' campaign to invite all parents to register their children in Lebanese schools. The purpose of this initiative is to maximise access to certified education for all children in Lebanon, and could mean that 200,000 Syrian refugee children between the ages of 3 - 14 could access certified basic education.
Children on the Edge welcome this initiative and our partners are working with local and international agencies to shape and promote it. However, at present there are many practicalities that prevent the children we are working with from taking advantage of this opportunity.
The cost of travel to local schools is prohibitive for the refugee families we work with and the ‘shift’ system (refugees are to be taught in a second afternoon shift) means that children would be travelling home in the dark. The quality of education in the state system has also suffered - The 3RP report states that children are struggling with the new and different curricula, language of instruction, lack of appropriate infrastructure, teacher capacity, over crowding, students suffering from trauma and distress, lack of safe WASH facilities, and limited catch up programmes, all of which are continuing to create barriers to education, even for those children who have managed to enrol.
People we have spoken to in the camp have said that sometimes this has resulted in the mistreatment of children, so all things considered at this point, the ‘Back to School’ initiative is currently not the right fit for the communities we are working with.
Work is continuing by the UN to strengthen the national education system and to provide education for both Syrian refugees and the vulnerable Lebanese population. This is a long term process on which the UN is working in close partnership with the Lebanese government and the Ministry of Education.
In the meantime we will continue to support informal education through our child friendly spaces in the refugee camps and work with local and international agencies to shape the implementation of the ‘Back to School’ initiative. The teachers have changed the time of the shifts offered at the camp schools, so that they finished in time for those who wanted to attend public school as well.
It is our hope that through these partnerships, the current barriers to attending mainstream school will be lessened and the children we work with will be able to gain safe access in the future. In the meantime, the camp schools need our support more than ever.
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