BEIRUT: The Education Ministry called on donors and international bodies Wednesday to provide more financial support to the public school system, which is struggling to absorb the influx of Syrian refugee students.
The General Director of the Education Ministry Fadi Yaraq made the plea during a regional conference about education programs for Syrian refugee students.UNESCO regional head Hamad al-Hammami participated in the conference.
The Syrian conflict, now in its third year, has created more than a million child refugees throughout the region, including around 270,000 school-aged children registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon.
Less than one-third of these children will be able to attend Lebanese public schools this year. So far, only 20,000 of the 270,000 are enrolled in Lebanese public schools.
The UNHCR said the vast majority of Syrian children now in Lebanon attended school back home in Syria before becoming refugees.
Inside Syria, the U.N. reports that around 2 million children have stopped going to school due to the ongoing violence.
The conference aimed at “consulting and trading expertise and introducing the main challenges which face the neighboring countries to Syria in providing education for the Syrian refugees so that it would be studied and resolved adequately,” Hammami said.
UNESCO’s regional office in Beirut is planning a complementary conference which will be held in March 2014, with the cooperation of the Lebanese Studies Center, Hammami announced.
Yaraq stressed that Lebanon was bearing the biggest burden of all the neighboring host countries because of its small area and difficult economic circumstances.
“The refugee issue is now endangering Lebanon’s education system because of the large number of students, some of them are outnumbering their Lebanese peers in certain areas,” he said.
“The Lebanese government can no longer bear the expenses of educating 43,000 [Syrian] students, and we are losing a lot of our income, which is compounded with the fact that we don’t have a new budget because the government has resigned,” Yaraq added.
“We hope that the organizations participating in this conference along with donors will help us in bearing this burden and facilitate efforts to meet the needs of Syrian refugees, and cooperate with us to prevent the collapse the public education system and restore it to the state it was before the Syrian displacement.”