Absolutely thrilled to partner with the Clooney Foundation for Justice, Google.org and the Radcliffe Foundation in a new project to educate out-of-school children in Lebanon, including Syrian refugees. Virgin Unite, our entrepreneurial foundation, has committed a significant amount to the first-year pilot of this exciting initiative, which aims to bring much-needed educational opportunities to thousands of children affected by war and terror in one of the world’s most volatile regions.
In the public debate over the Syrian conflict and the resulting refugee crisis, we should never forget that neighbouring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are those most affected by the flow of refugees. According to Amnesty International, Lebanon currently hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees – that’s roughly one in five people in the country. The number includes nearly 500,000 school-age children.
Over the next few years, The Clooney Foundation for Justice will be working with SABIS, a global education management company, to roll out a phased plan to open schools starting in September 2017. In the first year of the plan, the schools will enroll between 5,000 and 10,000 refugee children as well as Lebanese children who are not enrolled in school. In subsequent years, additional schools will be added to increase capacity by up to 50,000 students per year.
The schools, which will be located in areas of Lebanon most heavily populated by Syrian refugees, will implement an educational program that is currently used to provide over 70,000 students enrolled in SABIS Network schools around the world with a high-quality education. The schools serving the refugee children will leverage technology to drive and monitor the learning process, using digital resources that are highly interactive and capture valuable data on individual student progress to facilitate learning.
I’ve long followed the Clooneys’ humanitarian work with great admiration. Amal is a brilliant human rights lawyer, who has led the legal effort to free my friend Mohamed Nasheed from prison in the Maldives and is now taking on ISIS through the courts. George’s commitment to the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities has led him from the Darfur conflict to Syria. I am extremely grateful to both for their dedication and passion, and I know their capacity to inspire and mobilise others will make a real difference in this project, too. We are proud to be part of their team.
To me, supporting this project is part of a bigger mission. I’ve always believed that the global business community and citizens of the world must embrace refugees and migrants who have escaped the daily horrors of war in their countries with love, kindness, and access to basic rights. Access to a quality education will help vulnerable young people realise their goals and aspirations and instill in them the knowledge, skills, and hope to build a future of peace for us all.