THE BLOG
01/02/2016 12:26 GMT | Updated 01/02/2017 05:12 GMT

The Time to Act for Syria's Children Is Now

'I want to be a teacher' - a simple, yet powerful statement of hope from Fatima*, a six-year old Syrian girl.

It's nearly five years since the start of the Syrian conflict. For 3.8 million Syrian children, like Fatima, living in Syria or as refugees in neighbouring countries, this means five years of disrupted education or no access to education at all.

This is a scandal that must end now.

Everything must be done to ensure that the children of Syria who have already lost their homes do not face the double jeopardy of losing their education and the opportunity to have successful futures.

At a Syria All-Party Group meeting I chaired on Wednesday on civilian protection, we heard of the inspiring resilience of communities in Syria. Besieged neighbourhoods, such as Madaya, are proudly doing what they can to provide makeshift schooling. Even in the most terrifying of circumstances, a classroom has the ability to provide hope for the future.

The international community meets in London this week for the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference. I welcome calls made by 12 international NGOs for the conference participants to develop a comprehensive plan to increase access to safe, quality education opportunities in Syria and the region.

The UK government along with other donors must close the education funding gap. At least $1.4billion needs to be committed annually to ensure that all children and young people affected by the conflict are in education and learning during the 2016/2017 school year and on an ongoing basis. In the refugee-hosting countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey this funding needs to be invested in the national education systems so that they are better able to accommodate Syrian children. And where the formal system can't absorb refugee children, funding should support non-formal programmes.

Yet while vital, additional funding on its own will not deliver immediate access to quality education for refugee children. National policies must be unequivocally committed to ensuring all children and young people enjoy the opportunity to learn and do so in safety. Policy reform should include improved registration and documentation of students, the payment of teachers, an increase in certified informal learning opportunities and improvements to children's safety.

Fatima's wish to become a teacher could become a reality if participants at this week's conference work together to deliver a new ambitious plan for the region. Denying children like Fatima their right to education is already having a devastating effect on their lives. But it also has serious, far-reaching consequences for societies and economies across the region. We must act now for the futures of Syria's children.

*Name changed to protect identity

Roger Godsiff is the Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Syria