Syrian refugee in lebanon Icare/ZumaPress

Educating Lebanon’s Syrian Refugees

Lebanon has launched an ambitious effort to provide 500,000 Syrian refugee children with an education. The program would be the largest humanitarian education effort ever mounted during an emergency, but so far the international community has failed to fund it adequately.

NEW YORK – On a recent visit to Beirut, I met a girl and a boy who struggled through a year filled with dread. Both of them are 14-year-old Syrian refugees in Lebanon, eager for an education, but unable to go to school.

Their stories show what is at stake in the next few months, as Lebanon struggles to raise funds for an ambitious effort to provide education for its resident refugee population. This year should have been the Year of the Child – the deadline for the Millennium Development Goal of providing all children with primary education. Instead, for hundreds of thousands of young people, it has become what some are describing as the Year of Fear.

The girl – Dilan – fled Syria with her mother when she was ten. The two of them found work in Lebanon in a garlic factory. Dilan spent her 11th birthday peeling garlic cloves, earning only the right to the roof over her head. For the last 18 months, she has been out of school; the closest she has gotten to a real classroom is a day center where she has studied Arabic. Even though she is now fluent, her goal of attending school remains elusive; she has no money with which to pay the necessary fees. All she wants, she says, is to train to be a teacher – “to help remove the sadness from children’s hearts.”

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