Monday, 1 February 2016

#NoLostGeneration : Syria

There are a number of memory and association triggers – the smell that reminds you of Granny, the taste that reminds you of that horrible meal, the song that makes you laugh, or cry. For me, some of those associations now come with the names of countries or cities: Earthquake - Haiti and Christchurch; Typhoon & floods – Philippines and Taiwan; Refugees – Rwanda… One of the other associations has now become Geneva – location of some of the most important talks and opportunity for some of the worlds most oppressed people.

This weekend talks commenced to try and stop the fighting in Syria. Numerous actors from around the globe are sitting in a meeting facilitated by the UN. At this stage one of the opposition parties is refusing to even enter the room unless some of the preconditions are met – including allowing access to Syria for humanitarian workers and stopping the bombing of civilians – seems reasonable. There is a very long way to go, but these talks are the newest and currently best opportunity there is to stop the unimaginable destruction of people and country.

On March 15 this year the crisis will enter its 6th year and among the inconceivable statistics of internally displaced, refugees, starving and dead – there are a total of 5.4 million Syrian children and youth inside Syria (2.1 million out of school) and 1.4 million Syrian refugee children and youth in the five host countries (50 per cent of whom are out of school) – that need educational assistance.

The conflict has taken a tremendous toll on children’s access to educational services and protection.

Children in Syria suffer protracted and multiple displacement, continuous exposure to violence, family separation, chronic psychosocial distress, recruitment into armed groups and economic exploitation. Grave child-rights violations continue to be widely documented, including the killing and maiming of children and attacks on education facilities. In most host countries, refugee parents’ lack of access to legal, safe and decent employment impacts their ability to meet the children’s needs, with negative coping mechanisms such as child labour and early marriage on the rise.

On Thursday, in London, another conference will get underway; “Supporting Syria and the Region” will bring together international donors, including Australia. Hopefully these donors will commit to supporting the crisis.

Among the agenda items, is the hope to create a long-term commitment on education for Syria and the region to avoid a lost generation of children and youth through a total ask of US$1.4 billion. Around 4 million Syrian and affected host-community children and youth (aged 5-17 years) need to have access to, and learn in, safe, inclusive and quality formal and non-formal certified learning opportunities. In particular, the objective is to reach 1.7 million Syrian refugee and affected host-community children and youth in the five host countries with a total cost of US$0.9 billion, and 2.1 million out-of-school children inside Syria with a total cost of US$0.5 billion. Specific attention will be given to post-basic education opportunities that increase life skills for employability and social cohesion.

A whole generation of children and youth is at risk of losing hope. Education is key for their survival and preparation to rebuild a peaceful Syria. Failing to provide adequate funding would have an immensely negative impact on their future, that of the region and beyond.

Looking for something to pray for this week? Pray for these conferences and for the people that are hoping this time will make a difference.