UK Campaign to Return ‘Lost Generation’ of 3 Million Syrian Children to School

Hands Up For Syria appeal headed by British-based foundations raises 8 million pounds to provide Syrian children with access to education and learning materials

Restoring hope that a “lost generation” of 3 million Syrian children could return to school was the motivation behind an appeal launched in London which managed to collect 8 million pounds ($12 million) to be spent on education inside Syria and areas of refuge in neighboring countries.

According to United Nations statistics, about 3.7 million Syrian children have been born since 2011, including more than 300,000 in places of refuge. In addition, more than 8 million children require humanitarian aid, including about 3 million children who are not attending schools, which have largely been damaged or converted into prisons.

Of the Syrian children who have been killed, 400 were killed in the last year, and tens of thousands have fled outside the country. Inside the country, they have “matured” quickly as they are exposed to war and killing, or are among the 1 million people under siege or in areas that are difficult to access.

These numbers were among the motives for the Asfari Foundation and others working to deliver humanitarian aid, especially in the area of education, to launch the Hands Up For Syria appeal. By the end, the campaign raised donations of 4 million pounds, matched by the Asfari Foundation and others to raise the total donations to 8 million, within their commitment since 2011 to support education and Syrian refugees.

The campaign ended at an event attended by British Prime Minister David Cameron and the head of the Asfari Foundation, Ayman Asfari, as well as others, including the former British Foreign Minister David Miliband, and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett, in addition to a video speech by Britain’s Prince Charles.

Cameron said: “As a result of the brutal conflicts in Syria, Syria’s children have lost their right to an education; currently nearly 3 million of them are not in school …The international community must come together to deliver an education for Syria’s victims and help this lost generation find a future.”

The British prime minister was one of the sponsors of the donors’ conference in London at the start of February last year to support refugees, where he announced a doubling of British aid to 2.3 billion pounds at the end of the conference, which ended with financial pledges of 12 billion dollars, half of which is to be given in the current year.

Cameron said: “We’ve already achieved a great deal in providing education opportunities for Syrian refugee children, with 250,000 Syrians now back in the classroom in Lebanon and nearly every Syrian child in Jordan in school … But I want us to do more, and that’s what I’m urging everyone to commit to today.”

Mr. Asfari opened the event with a note on the support the campaign had received, adding that “our beneficiary organizations will use this generosity to transform the lives of thousands of children” and that the generation of Syrians will “rebuild their lives through education.” He also noted that Syria is suffering the biggest and most pressing humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives in addition to 13.5 million in urgent need of aid inside Syria, including six million children and 4.8 million refugees who have left their homes to neighboring countries.

Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, said the aid will allow the organization and the UNHCR to achieve making “a sustainable difference for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee children currently out of school.” He added: “With these funds we will help young kids to overcome the trauma of war, enable them to get an education and have their hopes of graduation and careers restored, and support scores of Syrian refugees to complete degrees at universities in Lebanon and Jordan.”

Blanchett spoke about her experience during her visits to refugee camps in Jordan, saying: “When I asked parents what hopes they held for the future, their message was clear: for their children to have an education, not just primary education but secondary and on to tertiary.” She added: “We cannot allow a whole generation to be lost; uneducated, disenfranchised, alienated.” She asked: “For how will Syria ultimately rebuild without engineers, doctors, teachers, accountants, without journalists, artists? …The funds raised by the appeal are protecting that vital right to education, giving Syrian refugee children a future, giving Syria a future.”

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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