By: Kevin Kalra, Senior Project Coordinator, Global Business Coalition for Education
Two million Syrian children are becoming a lost generation by being denied the opportunity to go to school and learn. Over 1 million of those children are uprooted refugees affected by the conflict and living in the Middle East region. Education and the opportunity to learn can create a sense of normalcy that helps young people develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to thrive despite living through a crisis.
School Availability in Lebanon
Lebanon is home to approximately 500,000 child refugees, the largest number in the region. One in four children in the small country is now a Syrian refugee, with little or no access to school. Presently, only 30,000 spots in school exist for these children nationwide.
This fall, global education expert and Director of the Overseas Development Institute, Kevin Watkins, traveled to Lebanon to visit Syrian refugees and developed the Education without Borders report, which maps out a system of using existing schools in a double-shift system. Syrian students would be able to use Lebanese schools in the evenings, taught by Syrian teachers.
How Business can Support the Children and Youth of Syria
Beyond expressing concern, investing in education is smart for business – it stabilizes regions, trains future workforces, increases economic growth, and promotes societal values that improve conditions for business. If we do nothing, we are creating a generation of young people with no prospects for employment or engagement in our global economy.
Business is already taking action. GBC-Education member Western Union (WU) will roll out the WU Education for Better fund with A World at School, that will allow nearly anyone, anywhere in the world, to donate to support UNICEF education programs for Syrian youth. Individuals can donate to the Education for Better Fund at over 300,000 WU locations worldwide, or online in the United States. WU will match consumer donations on a 1:1 basis, up to $100,000. Consumer donations are part of a “no transfer fee” program at participating WU Agent locations, as outlined here. By using their core business asset, WU is allowing anyone to be a philanthropist.
GBC-Education membership forms a network of over 1 million employees worldwide and tens of millions of consumers. To harness these networks, GBC-Education developed a campaign toolkit for member businesses. Members can use the toolkit to create employee and consumer engagement programs that fit their corporate culture and needs. For example, companies can use their internal internet portals to share multimedia and donation information, create employing giving programs or develop a cause-marketing campaigns.
In the coming weeks and months, we will see business taking a stand for the children and youth of Syria and finding ways they can harness their core assets to make a difference that is smart for both society and business.
Photo © UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0941/Haidar