Schools in the Middle East are facing major budget shortfalls ahead of the new academic year, leaving some 1 million Syrian refugee children out of school, according to a report published late Tuesday by Theirworld, an international children's charity.
The five-year-long Syrian war has placed huge strain on the region's school systems, forcing neighboring countries to depend on multi-billion dollar grants from donor nations to meet education needs.
There are 2.5 million Syrian children registered as refugees with the United Nations, the world body says. Most live in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan as they wait for an opportunity to return home.
In February, the international community pledged $1.4 billion in school funding for host nations at a London donor conference but less than $400 million of that has been fulfilled, Theirworld estimates. That leaves a funding gap of $1 billion.
Kevin Watkins, the author of the report and the executive director of the Britain-based Overseas Development Institute, said donors had "broken their promises."
In Lebanon, more than half of the nearly 500,000 school-age Syrian refugee children receive no formal education, according to Human Rights Watch, despite reforms allowing overburdened public schools to run two shifts a day.
Many Syrian refugee families have no choice but to put their children to work to help meet basic expenses in a country with few social protections and tight movement restrictions. Children who do go to school face difficulties with new curriculums, and many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychosocial problems.
"The schools accept Syrian refugees, but the children don't adapt. They register but then they drop out," said Najah Kherallah Jomaa, a refugee from Syria's Aleppo living in a settlement in the Lebanese town of Bar Elias.
The report by Theirworld warns of a "lost generation" of Syrians if determined steps are not taken to ensure school access for all.