GBC-Education Convenes Middle East Business Leaders to Address Syrian Refugee Education Crisis

Photo by Anthony Achkar.

Recognizing that education is a human right and there is an urgent need to provide education for the more than 7.5 million children affected by the crisis in Syria—many now out of school for more than four years, the private sector in the countries most affected by the crisis are joining forces to act.

Yesterday, GBC-Education convened a high-level meeting, held at Legatum Limited, in the DIFC’s offices in Dubai, of representatives from the private sector and influential foundations alongside UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown to identify immediate solutions to provide education for over one million Syrian refugee children. Building on the already successful efforts that have placed over 500,000 out of school Syrian refugee children in Lebanese, Jordanian and Turkish classrooms in a double shift system this year, Special Envoy Brown set out a plan to scale up to put over 1,000,000 refugee children in schools by the end of next school year and challenged the private sector to participate in these efforts.

Building upon the Coalition’s existing Safe Schools Initiatives—now operational in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Ebola-affected countries, the meeting reinforced the idea that the private sector can play an instrumental role in providing education to children caught in crisis and emergency. Tom Fletcher, GBC-Education Director of Global Strategy and former UK Ambassador to Lebanon stated: “The current education effort will not succeed without ideas and ingenuity from the private sector.”

Current GBC-Education members in attendance at the meeting—including NRS International, Intel and Western Union—along with others emphasized private sector support for utilizing core business assets and partnerships to address this crisis. Creative, actionable solutions were also proposed to garner financial commitments from the private sector, to accredit Syrian refugee children who have achieved certain education levels, and to accept Syrian curriculum in countries where refugees live.

GBC-Education Executive Chair and Theirworld President Sarah Brown stated following a trip to Lebanon last month: “In Lebanon we’re finding ways to accommodate more school children and ensure that no barrier stands in their way. We will keep campaigning for support and funds​ to help governments and our many partners deliver places in school for many more refugee children. And we will keep pushing for new ideas to create the scalable solutions so that every child – regardless of borders – has opportunity to learn and build a better tomorrow.”

Attendees called on the wider private sector to join the effort. Forthcoming international meetings in Davos, London and Istanbul in the first half of 2016 will be an opportunity to galvanize a wider coalition of supporters.

Echoing Special Envoy Brown, the group recognized that this need is urgent and time is against us. This meeting occurred as a global movement of civil society organizations and other education advocates urging the international community to work together to support Syrian refugee children getting back to school and to give Syrian children hope by standing #UpForSchool. Join them by signing the petition.

For further information please contact Lauren Lichtman ([email protected]) or Lorraine Charles ([email protected]).