The Syria crisis, now in its in fourth year, has led to an unprecedented number of refugees in the Middle East. Since the spring of 2011, more than one million refugees have arrived in Lebanon to seek refuge from the civil war that rages in their home country. The arrival of such high numbers of refugees in a country of approximately 4 million people has a significant socio-economic impact. Public services are under pressure and struggling to meet the needs of local residents as well as those arriving as a result of the crisis. Education, as a service, has not been spared.
The majority of refugees crossing the border into Lebanon are children1 and providing them with an education is a top priority. However, despite having generously open access to its schools for a large number of refugee children, the Lebanese education system (LES) and its public schools lack both the capacity and the resources to accommodate the large increase in the number of school-aged children. This, along with a complex interrelated set of other barriers, has resulted in a large out of school population among Syrian children and youth. While the exact number of out of school children is unknown, UNHCR estimates that 420,000 Syrians aged 6-14 are in need of education services2, and many of these children have been out of school for 2 or more years.
This report aims to paint a clearer picture of these out of school children (OOSC) and better understand their profiles and the barriers they face in order to strengthen UNHCR’s planning for the next academic year. The findings of this assessment will feed into the design of the strategies to enrol them in programmes adapted for their age and needs. It will also call to attention the need for additional research on the out of school population in order to have more effective targeting of these beneficiaries.
Overall, the study found that the main barriers to accessing education are multiple and often overlap. These barriers range from financial constraints such as the cost of transportation or school supplies and the need for support of family economies, to structural reasons such as lack of capacity in schools, the need of official documentation and differences in curriculum3. These barriers can vary in their impact; they can either prevent enrolment or attendance of Syrian refugees or are potential causes for dropout. Moreover, the report found that the importance and impact of these barriers differs from one geographical area to another. For example, while security - the fear of passing checkpoints and the possibility of armed conflict - is an issue across Lebanon, the problem is particularly acute in certain areas such as Wadi Khaled and Aarsal.
Finally, the assessment revealed that many solutions already exist. Some of these solutions are being implemented and others would help improve outreach and retention. Formal and non-formal education provided by UNHCR, UNICEF and their implementing partners have made great strides in providing opportunities for access to education. Limited awareness of these services among Syrian refugees remains a key challenge.
Overall, this study found that it is of utmost importance to have more efficient and innovative outreach mechanisms to make sure Syrian refugees are aware of the education opportunities available to them, that additional funding needs to be made available to accommodate specific challenges such as transportation, and that certain areas of the country require deviations from national standards to effectively address education needs for OOSC.