Leaders at Davos: Urgent support for refugee education crisis needed | MIT J-WEL

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Leaders at Davos: Urgent support for refugee education crisis needed


" "MIT, Save the Children, and Community Jameel come together at the World Economic Forum in Davos

On January 24, 2019, business and civil society leaders met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to commit urgent support to address the increased pressure placed on the education systems of refugee host countries across the Middle East.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former Prime Minister of Denmark and CEO of Save the Children International, and Hassan Jameel, President of Community Jameel Saudi Arabia, a social enterprise organization, hosted more than 15 leaders at a roundtable attended by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan. During the meeting, the group reviewed further measures to be undertaken by governments and philanthropists aimed at supporting education systems in countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon, which host millions of Syrian refugees.

Thorning-Schmidt explained the enormity of the problem: 

“While debates about immigration continue in Europe and the US, the vast majority of the world’s refugees are being hosted in low and middle-income countries like Jordan and Lebanon. These countries have generously welcomed millions of refugee children, but now they need support from the rest of the international community to get refugee children into school and learning. What these children tell us they want most of all is an education, but the shocking fact is that half of all refugee children are out of school. Without a big step up from donors, we risk having a lost generation of refugee children when we need a generation who can rebuild their countries one day.”

Hassan Jameel also commented:

“Every child deserves safe access to education - a critical tool for people to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. Through our partnership with Save the Children, we are committed to supporting teachers in Jordan deliver quality education in this extremely challenging environment, reaching over 700,000 people in the first five years and hopefully many more children across the region in the future.”

Moderated by Tania Bryer of CNBC, the roundtable included leaders from the worlds of business, politics, philanthropy and civil society. Attendees included participants from the Islamic Development Bank, UNHCR, the Queen Rania Foundation, Dubai Cares, MIT, Google.org, the LEGO Foundation, and GEMS Education.

Almost six million people have fled Syria since the crisis began in 2011, most of whom have remained in the Middle East. More than a million now reside in Jordan, putting considerable strain on the country and the education sector in particular.

J-WEL and Save the Children: Supporting refugee children in Jordan

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In response, Save the Children and J-WEL have partnered to integrate social and emotional wellbeing into teacher professional development programs in crisis settings. The program, Transforming Refugee Education towards Excellence (TREE), was announced at a high-level meeting on education in emergencies at the 2018 United Nations General Assembly and launches this year, piloting in Jordan.

War and emotional trauma: A generation of Syrian children in crisis

Save the Children’s Invisible Wounds report – the largest study of its kind conducted during the course of the Syria civil war – revealed a terrifying mental health crisis among Syrian children. Children they spoke to described increases in self-harm, suicide attempts, bedwetting, speech problems, and aggressive or withdrawn behavior. Mental health experts have also warned that Syrian children are showing signs of ‘toxic stress’, which can lead to developmental issues. Experts identified a return to education as a key intervention to address this mental health crisis among Syrian children.


Top photo: 

Left to right: MIT President L. Rafael Reif; Hassan Jameel, President of Community Jameel Saudi Arabia; Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan; and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International, at the roundtable on refugee education on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos


Bottom photo:

Syrian and Lebanese students learn together at a public school in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo courtesy of Adam Patterson/Panos/DFID.


A version of this article originally appeared on the Community Jameel website.