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Clooneys pledge to educate Syrian children in Lebanon

The power couple say a 'lost generation' is at stake [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 September, 2016

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Amal and George Clooney are working to enrol 10,000 children in pop-up schools by next September, teaching them everything from maths to human rights to computer coding, all in English.

Amal and George Clooney have joined forces with Google to educate Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.

The tech giant has pledged $1 million from its charitable arm Google.org towards the couple’s project, with a goal to enrol thousands of children in school by next September.

The Clooneys are starting in Lebanon where 1.5 million Syrians have sought refuge since the 2011 uprising against Bashar al-Assad and some 250,000 children are out of school.

"That leads to a horrible outcome a decade from now, a generation from now," George told USA TODAY.

"Let's not lose an entire generation of people because they happened to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Crisis

The actor-turned-activist and the Lebanese-born human rights lawyer are using their celebrity to shine a spotlight on the refugee crisis, which has seen countries neighbouring war-torn Syria such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey straining under the burden.

As the bloody battle continues, the education gap grows.

In 2009, 94 percent of Syrian children were in school, according to the United Nations. Today just four out of 10 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are enrolled in primary and secondary schools.

"We want to get every single out-of-school child in Lebanon an education," said Amal.

"My own family left Lebanon when there was a war there, and I couldn't have done any of the work I have done without having been able to have an education."

My own family left Lebanon when there was a war there, and I couldn't have done any of the work I have done without having been able to have an education

The Clooney Foundation for Justice is working with global education provider SABIS, which has already had success teaching refugees at a school in Lebanon.

"We learned about a specific school they built in Mtein in the El Mten region of Lebanon," Amal added. "We started thinking about how do we use this model and make it work at a much bigger scale."

Goal

Their goal is to enrol 10,000 children in pop-up schools by next September, teaching them everything from maths to human rights to computer coding, all in English.

By 2018, they want to enrol 50,000 more.

The plan is to launch up to 10 schools in the areas with the highest concentration of refugee children.

Google has not only given the project a cash injection, but will be donating its employees’ time, too.

"They were a natural partner for us. And, yes, they were very generous,” George said. "But it's their tech support and their ideas about that are going to make the difference for us."

Google.org director Jacquelline Fuller said the company will dispatch employees to make sure Syrian refugee children get a good education.

"The idea that you would have a quarter million refugee children in a place like Lebanon with half of them not in school – that is an entire generation who could be contributing to society," Fuller said. "This is a cohort of children we need to invest in."

The Clooneys’ pledge comes in the week the first UN summit to focus on the refugee crisis takes place in New York.

Addressing the UN this week Amal Clooney said she was “ashamed” it had failed to hold the Islamic State group to account for their atrocities, particularly the Yazidi genocide and continued enslavement of women and children, in 2014.

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