Gordon Brown writes: mid the Syrian chaos of carnage, starvation and evacuation, there is a tiny glimmer of hope. The Lebanese government has declared that it has taken 207,000 Syrian refugee children off the streets and given them places in their country’s public schools.
And today I am setting out a plan to extend the opportunity of education to 1 million refugee boys and girls across Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey during the course of 2016 – with the ambition that by next year every refugee child will be offered a place at school.
Through a combination of generous European Union funding by development commissioner Johannes Hahn and contributions from both public and private sectors in the region itself, $250m has been raised – the first instalment of the $750m we need to deliver this bold initiative. And in the run-up to the UN pledging conference in London on 4 February we are asking donors from public and private sectors to do more.
What has unlocked the chance of hundreds of thousands of extra school places is the introduction of a “double-shift school system”. Local Lebanese children are educated in the morning in their neighbourhood schools but the same classrooms are now being thrown open to refugee children in the afternoon and early evenings.
Because the double-shift system uses existing schools and so avoids the huge capital costs of building, the average cost is just $10 per school place per week. Already 200 Lebanese schools are offering double-shift education and there are now robust plans to offer 400,000 places by doubling the number of schools.
And as a direct result of Lebanon’s success, Turkey and Jordan are now ready to make double-shift schools the centrepiece of this year’s educational efforts for refugees. Working with Unicef, Turkey has set out its goals to double its school places for refugees to more than 450,000 this year. In Jordan, where just over 100,000 refugees are already in school, the aim is to double places. [Continue reading…]