Syrian refugee camps need an education relief body to avert ‘time bomb’

Syria’s refugee camps need a single body that delivers education in the same way as aid is provided if they are to prevent a “time bomb” of illiterate children, the head of a Syrian NGO has said.

The conflict affecting the Middle Eastern country has meant half of Syria’s children are not attending school, and if the country is to be rebuilt then it needs its young people to be educated, it was claimed.

Abdulsalam Haykal, a Syrian entrepreneur and president of the Syrian Young Entrepreneurs Association, an NGO that aims to reform the country, called for the creation of an organisation, similar to relief agencies, that would coordinate education in the refugee camps created by the Syrian conflict.

Speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Monday, Mr Haykal said that while the priority was relief aid for the survival of those escaping the violence, there was an urgent need for education to be delivered to the camps if another emergency was to be averted.

“But I think what’s necessary is to have a body that owns the cause of education for Syrian kids,” he added. “And no one does it now. The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] is definitely and naturally and understandably focused on relief, but who owns education? So that’s why you need a body that coordinates all the education because it is a time bomb.”

And he continued: “Most children in the camps have lost three, four, five years of education. Almost 50 per cent of school age children are out of school in Syria.”

According to the latest figures from the UNHCR, more than 3m people have fled the country to its immediate neighbours Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. More than 6.5m people have been internally displaced in Syria.

“If you think this is going to be limited to Syria then you are completely wrong,” Mr Haykal said. “This relates directly to the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and if you want Syria to come back one day we will need these children to be educated.”

Related stories:

Oxfam warns over worsening conditions for Syrian refugee children – 12 December 2013

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