AL-HAMDANIEH REFUGEE CAMP, Lebanon: Nine Syrian children spoke Thursday at a news conference to demand their right to education at the Marj learning center in Al-Hamdanieh refugee camp.
Standing in the learning center’s square, surrounded by caravans that have been turned into classrooms, five children aged 10 to 13 spoke into microphones to launch a campaign seeking to raise funds to cover cuts that could threaten learning centers that provide education for over 3,000 Syrian refugees.
The Marj center is one of nine “Al-Amal” learning centers sponsored by NGO MAPs across the Bekaa Valley that provide refugees with informal education from kindergarten to grade six.
“We are threatened with losing our education and our centers because of a lack of funding ... these centers have taken in 3,000 Syrian children in Lebanese camps,” 13-year-old Hiba Jneid said.
The number of Syrian children enrolled in Lebanese schools has increased steadily each year of the refugee crisis. But an estimated 36 percent of Syrian children in Lebanon aged 6-14 still remain out of formal schooling, and 23 percent are not in any kind of educational program, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
Over a one-month period the campaign aims to raise $100,000 to secure enrollment for 3,000 displaced students and salaries for 150 displaced teachers.
“Our hearts might be small in size but our goals ... are big,” 13-year-old Kawthar Shahad said.
At the event, five children talked about their aspirations and building their future in Lebanon, some saying they wanted to become surgeons and doctors. The campaign also aims to raise awareness of the lack of international funding in long-term quality education.
“One of the major issues we are facing right now with international funding is that now that the war is over and people think that Syrian refugees are going to return, people are hesitant to invest in education because of that,” MAPs partnerships officer Natalie Garland said.
According to Mohammad Salameh, the coordinator of education programs for MAPs, International Humanitarian Relief - one of the organization’s main funders in the past - had stopped its funding for 2019 due to funding complications of its own.
The IHR could not immediately be reached for comment.