Gordon Brown: A little learning could provide an awful lot of help

We need a coordinated response to this unprecedented crisis

Syrian children attend a class at a school in the Kadi Askar area in the Syria's northern city of Aleppo
Syrian children attend a class at a school in the Kadi Askar area in the Syria's northern city of Aleppo

It is an established principle that in times of war, thanks to the work of organisations such as the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières, those displaced receive the essentials for survival – with children always the first priority.

But in observing the crisis engulfing the people of Syria I am struck by a persistent omission in our humanitarian response to such situations: the failure to deliver the schooling that will prevent a generation of children losing their future.

Today in New York, an emergency coalition of young people, backed by global education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, will demand for the first time that refugee children not only have the right to food, shelter and healthcare but the right to continue their learning - and thus recover a childhood that risks being lost.

Already a million dollars has been raised by the public, via the brilliant Avaaz.org, in just a few days. Western Union too is helping the public to donate. But today our special coalition will challenge world leaders to act as well – and to establish a parallel principle that, from now on, education is, alongside healthcare, taken as an inviolable right that must be delivered, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

The disarmingly simple plan, developed by Kevin Watkins for the education campaign A World at School, could see schooling provided for 300,000 Syrian children exiled in Lebanon – within a matter of weeks.

To achieve this, we need the international community to show a coordinated response to this unprecedented crisis, and following the rallying call of our coalition, key donors and delivery agencies will meet today to discuss the way forward.

As well as the skills and knowledge essential for becoming a happy, healthy and productive citizen, schooling brings a sense of normality and routine to an otherwise disrupted life. And what’s more – as in our plan for Syrian refugees in Lebanon – it also provides the structures through which hot, nutritious meals can be delivered.

If we are successful, we will never again be able to stand aside as children affected by conflict lose out on the education they need, as 28 million currently do. We will have shown that, much like Doctors Without Borders, Education Without Borders can ensure that generations don’t lose out, and that when the fighting begins, learning doesn’t have to stop.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in