Award-winning actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie has penned a powerful essay about the Syrian refugee crisis. In the op-ed, published on CNN the activist describes the ongoing crisis as a “a major challenge for our generation” and the only solution, she argues, is education.
In the lengthy text, Jolie writes that education is the key to rebuilding war-torn countries and building up displaced people affected by the ongoing turmoil. “Refugees themselves are not passively waiting for help, but are actively searching for ways to be part of the recovery of their countries. Education is a key to helping them to do this,” she writes before going on to share a story about the contrasting lives of two Syrian girls, one who lost her parents, and had to put aside her dreams of being a doctor in order to focus on supporting her siblings. At 14, the woman married and became a mother, and still cannot read or write today. “Even if the war ended tomorrow, she has been robbed of her childhood and the future she might have had,” writes Jolie.
The other young refugee fled from Syria to Iraq alongside her family when she was 16. She had the opportunity to enroll in school and attend university, all while living in an Iraqi refugee camp. “We often talk about refugees as a single mass of people, a burden,” writes Jolie. “We do not see the intricate mosaic of individual men, women and children with their diverse backgrounds and immense human potential.”
“There are millions of young refugees with the energy and desire and commitment to study and work, who want to contribute to the societies that host them and ultimately help rebuild their home countries. There are millions of displaced parents who will make every sacrifice imaginable to help their children go to school,” she argues.
According to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, more than 10 million Syrian people have been displaced since the civil war started in March 2011.
Jolie, of course, isn’t the only celebrity using her star status to advocate education for refugee children. George and Amal Clooney recently announced that the Clooney Foundation for Justice – a non-profit organization established by the pair – are helping to educate thousands of Syrian refugee children displaced in Lebanon through a US$2.25 million partnership with Unicef.
The partnership, which also received donations from Google, will provide 3,000 Syrian students with opportunities for free education. The foundation isn’t opening any new schools, but rather extending the hours so that refugee children can attend classes in the afternoon. Funding for the foundation, which also includes a US$1 million technology grant from computer giant HP, will go towards registration fees, textbooks, and teachers’ salaries.
Jolie, a United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees special envoy, concludes her op-ed by writing, “If we help refugees get an education, they themselves will take on the harder task of rebuilding the countries whose future peace and security is so important to our own. It is the wise as well as morally right course of action.”