There is a generation that is likely to disappear. The one that flees from war together with their parents to find an oasis of peace. Instead, this generation finds itself in a different world, sometimes hostile, where reception is a cold bureaucratic machine and human relationships are reduced to the minimum. And where even school becomes a chimera. Because among the lesser-known consequences of the conflict there is the high rate of forced illiteracy. It aggravates even further the already tragic situation of 250 thousand Syrian children and adolescents Syrians who reach Lebanon deprived of any chance to build a future due to lack of education. It is tantamount to depriving them of any possibility to return to their homeland someday, with a cultural background that would allow them to become a better leadership class than the one before them.
The alarm was launched by Human Rights Watch, which points out that “the high number of refugee children who do not attend school is an immediate crisis. Some of them have never set foot in a classroom.” A particularly serious problem for young people between 15 and 18 years of age: of these, only 3% were enrolled in Lebanese institutions this year. Despite the efforts of the local authorities and international donors, the situation is still critical, and government policies are often disregarded or even ignored. A slap in the face of the right to education.
In the Bekaa Valley, dozens of refugee camps are full of children who do not partake in training projects. According to the 15-year-old Mariam Khatib, “people are nothing without culture.” Her father, Imad al-Din is aware of it too, yet he does not have the means to send them to school. “Our financial situation does not allow us to do so, and so far, I have not received help from anyone,” he stressed, saying he was “concerned about their future in case they do not receive an education.”
Syrian refugees claim that school administrations ask them to show residence certificates and to pay the fees, while the promised afternoon schools remain merely a project. In addition, HRW recalled, there are a number of additional obstacles, such as the cost of the transport to get to school, the harassment they suffer, and insufficient room and teachers inside the schools. Nonetheless, Syrian teachers are not allowed to teach. Syrian activists are also demanding the opening of schools inside the refugee camps to tackle the problem of long distance and the risks it represents for the children. “It is unlikely that Syrian children will be able to enjoy their right to education unless Lebanon does not implement reforms that go beyond current policies and receives new funding from donors,” said HRW.
Of course, this problem does not concern only child refugees in Lebanon. According to UNICEF, about 24 million children do not attend school in 22 countries affected by war. The report notes that almost a fourth of the 109.2 million in primary and secondary schools age – generally between 6 and 15 years of age – who live in conflict zones, are not engaged in educational programs. South Sudan has the highest number of children who do not attend school. Niger is ranked second with 47%, followed by Sudan (41%) and Afghanistan (40%).