Middle East

Malala Yousafzai warns of education gap for Syrian refugees

A Syrian girl eats a sandwich as she stands outside her family tent, during the visit of Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, to a Syrian refugee camp in the town of Saadnayel, in the Bekaa valley, east Lebanon, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Image copyright AP
Image caption Nearly half of Syrian children displaced in neighbouring countries are not in school, a new report says

Campaigner Malala Yousafzai has called for more to be done to educate millions of Syrian refugee children displaced within the country and its neighbours.

Nearly half the roughly four million children displaced in the region are not in school, according to a new report by the Malala Fund.

They risk becoming a "lost generation", Ms Yousafzai warned.

The BBC's Lyse Doucet was given exclusive access to the report ahead of its release on Friday.

Ms Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban after campaigning for education for girls in Pakistan, has been raising awareness of the lack of education for Syrian refugees.

A growing number of Syrian girls are already teenage brides, or working in farms and factories, our chief international correspondent reports from the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Yousafzai (R) with Syrian refugee and education activist Muzoon Almellehan (17) in the UK

Analysis by Lyse Doucet, BBC chief international correspondent, in Amman

Major donors are under pressure from Syria's neighbouring countries to provide substantial long-term support if they wish to convince Syrian families to stay in the region instead of heading to Europe.

"It's time for the world to match their commitment to get every Syrian child back in school," Malala Yousafzai told me in an email.

The 18 year-old campaigner for children's rights will be attending the London Conference with 17-year-old Syrian education activist Muzoon Almellehan, whose family recently settled in the UK.

"My generation is not lost," she insists.

But the longer Syrian children stay out school, the greater the risk they will not return.

British officials say it is a realistic goal to get them back in class by the end of the next academic year, but they are still pushing hard.

UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening told me: "We must ensure Syria's children do not become a lost generation."

According to the report by Ms Yousafzai's's charitable fund, donors have provided only 37% of the money needed to supply resources such as school places and teachers.

It says $1.4bn (£1bn) a year is urgently needed to plug the gap.

Ms Yousafzai has warned that children are being deprived of education at a time when they begin to form into future doctors, teachers, and engineers.

The report comes ahead of next week's Syria Conference in London, where donors will be asked to pledge that all Syrian refugee children in the region should be in school by the end of the next academic year.

But even Nordic countries, which have been taking the lead on funding, are indicating that they may need to divert money to educate Syrians arriving in their countries.

According to Ms Yousafzai, neighbouring countries are already bearing too much of the cost of educating Syrian refugees.

More on this story