“Reimagining education as lifelong learning towards fostering a generation that is ready to LEAP into the future.”

The Syrian conflict is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today and has resulted in the displacement of over 12 million people, including 5 million refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries. The crisis in Iraq has also seen 3.4 million people internally displaced and 11 million now in need of humanitarian assistance.

For youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, conflicts in Iraq and Syria have disrupted the time in their lives that is dedicated to learning and development. This time has been lost to displacement, including exposure to violence and trauma, and the burden of adult responsibilities. Millions of young people have been forced to drop out of school, work in difficult conditions to provide for their families, marry early, and abandon their hopes and dreams.

Although enrollment in the region is relatively high, too many adolescents and youth are not in school or at risk of dropping out before completing 12 years of education. 15 million children between 5-14 years old are out of school in MENA, and 10 million are in school but at risk of dropping out. Population projections for 2030 indicate an overall increase of 25 million (+35%) additional students in the region to be accommodated in the education systems - the additional burden on national systems is projected to be highest among adolescent population at lower and upper secondary education level.

Furthermore, youth unemployment in the MENA region is the highest in the world, with 29% in Northern Africa and 22% in the Arab States. By 2030, countries in the MENA region will face a substantial increase in the number of adolescents and youth to be absorbed into the labor market – with projected additional 39 million (+27%) young people entering the labor force, many without the training or education necessary to thrive.

The challenges that adolescents and youth face in the region in terms access and quality of education and dignified employment, together with the fast-changing future of work, call for reimagining education as lifelong learning towards fostering a generation that is ready to LEAP into the future: ready to Learn, to be Employed, to Actively engage, and to take control over one’s own Personal growth and empowerment. This urgent and ambitious vision, requires that we rethink both learning and earning for the young people in MENA region - from what skills they learn and how they learn throughout their lives, to how they access dignified, sustainable earning opportunities.