Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

For Syrians and Anyone Else… Everything But Education

Every country has the right to set laws for everyone residing on its territory, including refugees. Even European countries have complained about this matter. However, can our region address the refugee question in isolation of reality or the bigger regional picture? I doubt it!

Why this introduction? Let me explain. Mr. Samir Geagea recently addressed the Lebanese Minister of Education in a post on X: "Your excellency, by the academic year of 2024-2025, the law must be reinstated in schools, all its schools and at every level.”

He then goes on to add: “In other words, just as every student applying for admission to a public or private school must submit their identification papers, I ask you to issue a circular to all schools, informing them that they must not accept any foreign students, Syrian or otherwise, who do not have a valid residency issued by the General Security Directorate. This is the only valid legal residence document in the eyes of the law, and the Ministry of Education must be at the forefront of ensuring compliance with the law."

As I mentioned earlier, every country has the right to regulate the status of residents on its territory in principle. However, our region, particularly Lebanon, is different, and it requires a divergent approach. I don't have to remind you that Hezbollah is responsible for the displacement of millions of Syrians. Lebanon must bear the consequences.

This is not a question of political debate but a more profound and dangerous issue. I believe Samir Geagea is not oblivious to this fact. This is a question of fear for the future. Every official and intellectual must account for this, and stand against anything that could deepen the crisis in the region.

The deterioration and inaccessibility of education are among the most severe crises the region must contend with. This is a dangerous problem that has been engendered by the political, economic, and ideological problems in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Gaza, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia. Each of these countries has its own, more complicated story.

Indeed, with the onset of crises and wars in these countries, the wheels of education were brought to a halt, meaning that in just four years, we will be faced with millions of ten-year-old children who have never had a real education!

This means that an entire generation, millions of future adults, are at risk of being denied entry into the workforce and falling into the abyss of backwardness, extremism, and organized crime, smuggling drugs to human trafficking, and worse. Is this what we want?

No one can tolerate chaos, and I am not advocating for it. However, it is time to solve our crises in creative ways that ensure they do not aggravate or persist. We will not fix anything by running away from the problem, only by finding effective solutions.

After the Taliban came to power following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, girls were banned from continuing their education. At the time I wrote here arguing that remote education must be provided to them because we cannot allow them to become ignorant mothers who raise another generation plagued by extremism and terrorism.

And now, I demand and urge others to propose solutions. An educational fund must be established. Arab states and the international community must provide the money needed to ensure that children can receive an education, especially in war-torn areas. This can be achieved through remote learning or other means, ensuring that children are taught curricula of life, not lies and slogans.

Let us argue about everything but education... We are dealing with enough problems already.