The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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October 20, 2014

Now Lebanon - The situation is only getting worse. There are more refugee children, and less funding, October 20, 2014

Yasmina Hatem

Every fall, schools across Lebanon open their doors for returning students, however Syrian children are missing out on education as the country's overstretched public school system struggles to find space for the young refugees.

Out of 355,000 school-aged refugees between the ages of 5 and 17registered by the UNHCR, only 90,000 enrolled in Lebanese public schools in the 2013-2014 school year.

Lebanon's Education Ministry estimates a higher number for the upcoming year, with Elias Bou Saab, the head of the ministry, telling NOW that there are now approximately 400,000 Syrian children in Lebanon, out of which only 100,000 will be enrolled in the overextended state school system.

The ministry has said it cannot accommodate the high number of refugee children, and is moving forward with establishing new schools to teach the Syrians. "Our plan is to establish legal schools Syrian children can attend in order for them to obtain official certificates from the ministry," Bou Saab said.

"International organizations we are cooperating with recently approved granting the ministry a $56 million dollars fund to improve learning opportunities for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon."

The fund, which was financed by UNICEF and UNHCR among others, covers the costs of educating the approximately 100,000 children enrolled in the public school system for the 2013-2014 school year.

Amid the difficulties faced by the ministry in educating the growing number of refugee youth, local and international NGOs have stepped up efforts to not only help Lebanon's public school system but also fill-in the gaps of teaching children.

According to Mona Monzer, communications and public information associate at UNHCR, "around 62,000 children were supported by UNHCR and UNICEF."

"For the previous school year, UNHCR supported 15,000 through the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) and 4,500 in catch up and remedial classes."

Sawa For Syria is one of the local NGOs trying to help Syrian children to receive an education. In the last two years, Sawa established three schools catering almost 1,000 children through private funds. The institutes are set-up in the Beqaa's Jeharieh and Saadnayel near refugee camps the organization identified as most in need of educational assistance. The teachers are all Syrian adults from the surrounding camps, most of who used to be teachers in their home country.

The schools follow the Lebanese educational curriculum, but are not officially recognized by the Education Ministry, raising a host of challenges. "There are no official certificates for any of the children in attendance in these schools. When they eventually go back to school in Syria, they will not get any recognition for the education they received in Lebanon," said Sally Alwan, head of the children's department in Sawa.

"It is a real problem. We are trying to work with the Education Ministry to create some kind of official certificate, but it is still better than nothing. At least the children continue to learn: Arabic, English, math, and even arts and crafts are on the program."

However, the Education Ministry does not share Sawa's pragmatism. "These schools are illegal and will be closed," Bou Saab said.

"Every school that does not have a permit to teach will not be allowed to open its doors this year. We are concerned about the fact that these schools – not being under the supervision of the ministry – might be educating children according to special programs that tend to be sometimes extremists," Bou Saab told NOW.

Syrian children not finding enrollment in schools not only miss out on education, but face falling through society's cracks, including being forced into labor or early marriage.

"The situation is only getting worse," said Ramona Khawly of the resilience department of Himaya, an organization that works with children who are victims of abuse. "There are more refugee children, and less funding," Khawly told NOW.

Himaya works with children aged between 12 and 18 years old, most of whom don't attend a formal school system. Himaya holds psycho-social sessions that aim to save the children from being on the streets; the NGO works with them and their parents to get them off the streets and away from situations in which they may encounter abuse. But it is difficult to keep these children from labor.

"When a child starts earning money, he usually doesn't want to go back to school. We have to work with the child and his parents to be able to convince him to go back," Khawly said.

Source & Link: Now Lebanon

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