Check Your Educational Privilege: The Necessity of Education for Syrian Refugees

Sophia Zhu ’18
Assistant Opinions Editor 

While education is accepted as a fundamental human right, this right is in no way universal. Even among Smithies, students studying in the same institution, there are big differences in the efforts and costs that each of us have to pay in order to enjoy the opportunity of higher education. It is hard to imagine how people affected by the war can maintain access to education. Before the civil war began, Syria was a nation with a relatively high literacy rate of 90 percent. However, the war changed everything. Even as families flee to neighboring countries, a “lost generation” of uneducated youth cannot flee from the shadow of an eternal loss of opportunities.

Malala Youzafzai is now calling for a donation of $1.4 billion from the West to educate Syrian children who are denied education because of the continuing war. With time, it is getting increasingly difficult for children who dropped out of school to return to gaining knowledge, skills and, more importantly, hope. With most funding programs focusing only on survival, the cost of human capital, as refugee children are denied education, is often neglected. Despite the efforts of neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, which have been generous enough to open their schools to accommodate more Syrian children, resources are still lacking in the region to ensure every Syrian child access to education. When conditions are bad, women and girls are often the first to be sacrificed. Early marriage rates among Syrian refugee girls have more than doubled from 12 percent to 26 percent, and an increasing percentage used as cheap labor. The number are situations are alarming and concern all of us.

On Feb. 4, the “Supporting Syria & the Region 2016” conference was held in London. Leaders from Germany, Kuwait, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United Nations led the conversation about how to effectively help Syrian citizens deal with a crisis that, despite more than six years of relief efforts, has become even more severe. The conference raised over $ 11 billion in pledges, including $5.8 billion for 2016 and $5.4 billion for 2017 to 2020. Education was listed as a high priority. The urgency of the education problem is not as obvious as that of reducing hunger or crime, but deprivation of educational rights is often the root of these problems. Also, education requires a long-term investment before improvement becomes apparent. We have to plan ahead and implement strategically, which requires the commitment of every country and citizen to providing humanitarian aid and fighting for the cause of securing the fundamental right of quality education.

One day when the war ends, and once again, Syria becomes a land of opportunity, the youth will be responsible for rebuilding their homeland. Instead of barring the refugees from fleeing into Europe and condemning them for the burdens created for other countries, we should collaborate to create a sustainable development plan, making Syria a desirable home and equipping the youth with essential knowledge and skills. As students, we may not have the ability to make a significant financial donation, but, as the beneficiaries of higher education, we should at least stay informed and give this issue the attention and support that it deserves.

One Comment

  1. I have a really wacky idea! Here it is.

    Why don’t the uber-wealthy Gulf State nations take in these Muslim brothers and sisters? I mean, my gosh, there are a half-dozen Muslim nations literally rolling in money who could bring in all these poor refugees, feed them, house them and give then copies of the Qur’an to memorize.

    I mean, why is this not happening? All I hear about from American Muslims is that Islam is a religion of compassion. So, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE and others….show me the compassion!

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