Norway is among the world’s top contributors to Syria and the Syrian region, especially in the field of education for displaced children and youth. At the start of this school year, only half of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had been assigned a spot in school, while the vast majority of children in Jordan eventually have gained access to education.
"Meeting children on the run from Aleppo, Homs, Raqqa and other conflict-ridden cities in Syria really makes an impression on you. They have gone through so much already, despite their young age. Some of the children I met told me they had lost hope in the future, while others talked of dreams of one day becoming teachers, engineers and doctors. I’m pleased to see that Norwegian aid in the educational sector can make a difference in their lives," said State Secretary Røsland.
More than a million Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon, a country roughly the size of Vermont, while 655,000 are registered in Jordan. Unemployment rates are high in both countries, especially among the young. The refugee crisis provides a challenge for Syria’s neighboring countries in offering basic services to its own people, who have shown great hospitality and adaptability. Among other measures, the implementation of afternoon shifts in schools assures that Syrian refugees also have access to education.
Education a priority
"The host countries are making an invaluable effort in providing refugees with housing while at the same time, despite the conflict raging on the other side of its borders, maintaining stability. Norway will continue to prioritize educational aid and work for easier access to work permits for refugees. This will, in turn, enable them to support themselves instead of relying on aid," said the State Secretary.
The main challenge in both countries is that poverty prevents many refugee children from attending school. Poverty, increasing debt and vulnerability, as well as limited job opportunities, cause many refuges to resort to negative survival mechanisms: Children must either work or be married off at a young age.
The State Secretary visited education development projects in both countries and met with several partners supported by Norway, among others the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Unicef, the UN World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Berger Røsland also met with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Norwegian Red Cross, Norwegian People’s Aid, Norwegian Aid Committee (NORWAC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
"I am impressed by the efforts being made by the UN, the Red Cross and the Norwegian aid organizations. We hope the political negotiations that will resume at the end of this month in Geneva will contribute to a resolution of the crisis, which might eventually will allow the refugees to return home. For now, however, the humanitarian needs of the Syrian refugees are enormous," said Berger Røsland.
Last year, Norway contributed 224 million NOK (USD 27 million) to Jordan and 521 million NOK (USD 62.7 million) to Lebanon in humanitarian aid. Approximately 40 percent of the support to Lebanon and a third of the support to Jordan went into education. In total, Norway contributed 2.7 billion NOK (USD 325 million) in aid to Syria and its afflicted neighboring countries in 2016.