By Joshua Stancil, TRACESONLINE.ORG, New York
The numbers are truly staggering: since 2000, a 41% increase in the number of refugees, with some 244 million migrants, refugees, and displaced persons on the move. Prompted by these numbers and the continuing crisis in Syria, the United Nations will convene in September a General Assembly High-level Meeting to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. In preparation for that meeting, the UN recently invited Rana Najib, Education Coordinator for AVSI’s $10 million operation Lebanon, to participate in a panel discussion and to share her experience. Before leaving New York and returning to Lebanon, Rana kindly sat down and spoke with Traces.
What are the main projects that AVSI is involved with in Lebanon?
We focus on education and the protection of children. We have been greatly aided in this by the Lebanese Ministry of Education, which has greatly facilitated the enrollment of Syrian children in Lebanese schools, and provided special programs for them.
How many Syrian children go to school?
Unfortunately, not many. Somewhere between 20 and 30 percent. According to our friends at UNICEF, approximately 377,000 Syrian children do not attend school at all. Plus there are other challenges. Around the age of 13 or 14, many children drop out of school to go work. We try to meet with the parents to emphasize the importance of education for their children; but poverty is very much an issue, and many parents prefer to have their children leave school and work to bring home some money. Another challenge is cultural: around the age of 13 or 14, some of the girls get married, at which time they leave school and their education ends.