Private Sector Commits $75 Million Through Partnership to Educate Syrian Children

Photo By Anthony Achkar/A World at School.


In the lead up to the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in May, GBC-Education has scaled up the business response to the Syrian refugee crisis, raising the total commitment from private sector and partners to $75 million in the effort to support the education of one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Now, through collaborations that span industries, more companies have come forward to offer their support by contributing educational content, digital delivery, skills for employability, crucial infrastructure, and teacher training, among other programming in direct response to obstacles identified by regional governments.

Sarah Brown, Executive Chair of GBC-Education, announced these new partnerships during the Supporting Syria and the Region conference where GBC-Education convened private sector partners, UN agencies, and key donors. Their effort builds off of a $50 million commitment made by 50-plus companies and partners in late January.

“Business has stood up and recognized that the effort to get one million Syrians back to school is their fight too,” said Tom Fletcher, GBC-Education Director of Global Strategy. “Only through new, strong coalitions between the private sector, governments, NGOs, and host communities will we get this job done. These commitments show what is possible.” (Learn more about GBC-Education’s work in the Middle East.)

Partnering for Education in Emergencies is Critical

Impactful partnerships between the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, donors, and multilateral agencies are critical to the global education development effort, especially because education only receives 1.3 percent of overall humanitarian aid. The private sector’s magnified voice also marks a shift in the development dialogue, since traditionally, businesses have been omitted from conversations within the international community. Through convenings like GBC-Education’s events during the World Economic Forum in Davos and the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London, businesses, key donors, and NGOs will be better able to collaborate more strategically to reduce potential duplication across efforts and to build unprecedented and innovative partnerships.

Farhaj Sarwar, Managing Director of NRS International, echoes these sentiments: “With the recently launched Sustainable Development Goals, and the World Humanitarian Summit just around the corner, I believe that GBC-Education and its partners can build a strong platform upon which access to quality education for children most in need can be accelerated.”

Also announced today is a new partnership, spearheaded by Tom Fletcher and Jawbone Founder Alex Asseily, to harness the ingenuity of the technology sector with support from major industry leaders to accelerate this progress. Their initiative will report to the International Commission on Financing Global Education.

Coalition Members Leverage Partnerships

Businesses Team Up

By leveraging existing partnerships which have demonstrated success, GBC-Education member companies are showcasing the strength of collaboration by leading these efforts. For example, founding member Discovery Communications with Discovery Learning Alliance and sQuid will aim to work with other partners to develop a learning platform for Syrian refugee children. The partnership between Discovery Learning Alliance and sQuid is based on the organization’s track record in achieving similar objectives via their work in the UK Department for International Development (DFID) Girls’ Education Challenge.

“Discovery Learning Alliance is proud to stand with educators working with Syrian refugee children and pleased to partner with sQuid to support these students, teachers, and communities,” said Tamela Noboa, Managing Director of Discovery Learning Alliance. “We look forward to combining our efforts with additional public and private sector donors to provide relevant and lasting education solutions for both refugee and host communities during this challenging time.”

Member Vitol Foundation is partnering with Bridge International Academies and McKinsey & Company to develop a low-cost, high-quality education model for Syrian refugees at scale. McKinsey is also offering support and advice to DFID, the international community, and the public sector in Lebanon on the non-formal education system for Syrian refugees.

And, member ITWORX Education (via the EuroMENA Fund) is working with other private sector partners, such as Global Learning, to provide technological solutions for education for those who cannot be immediately accommodated in formal schools.

Partnering with NGOs

Companies are also utilizing their core business assets to address the crisis by teaming up with NGOs. Founding member Pearson is going beyond traditional philanthropy, to leverage the full potential of Pearson’s global operations, innovation capabilities, networks, and people in its partnership “Every Child Learning” with Save the Children to increase educational opportunities for Syrian refugees and host communities. Member RELX Group is engaged in a global partnership with the International Rescue Committee, part of which is dedicated to supporting second language skills for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“All of us involved in education have a responsibility to ensure that there’s no lost generation in Syria — that every child has the chance to learn,” said John Fallon, CEO of Pearson, during the side event. “That requires us to work together — governments, NGOs, and the private sector — to maximize our impact to achieve that goal.”

Building on the Momentum of these Partnerships

Additional pledges of support announced today include the donation of temporary learning spaces for refugee education from member NRS International; strategic advice to the Lebanese Ministry of Education on the design of school infrastructure from engineering company Arup; expansion of access to age-appropriate, culturally relevant content through the Global Book Fund sponsored by children’s publishing company Scholastic; provision of children’s media such as animated episodes, illustrated books, and activity books for marginalized refugee children in Jordan through media company Big Bad Boo; provision of access to higher education for displaced people by Kiron University; and, distribution of refurbished technological hardware loaded with culturally relevant content to education centers in Lebanon from non-profit Thaki.

These partnerships come on the heels of those announced at the World Economic in Davos from the Speed School Fund, NGOs Jusoor and Rumie, the Breteau Foundation, and higher-learning institutions like New York University. Additional pledges include those from foundations such as Ikea Foundation, Makhzoumi Foundation, and Mikati Foundation.

“The commitment to put one million students back to school in 2016 is certainly doable if the donations are made now,” said Hatem Sallam, CEO of ITWORX Education. “We look forward to support from the international community.”