No Lost Generation: Supporting the School Participation of Displaced Syrian Children in Lebanon

Jacobus de Hoop, Mitchell Morey and David Seidenfeld

The Journal of Development Studies, Volume 55, Supplement 1 (2019), Pages 107-127


According to the authors, in 2014 there were around 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon—including 500,000 children of primary school age—out of a total population of 5.9 million. Several policies have been implemented to encourage school attendance including: waiving primary school fees; waiving the requirement for a residency permit; providing basic supplies to students; opening afternoon shifts in public primary schools; and providing an accelerated program for children who had been out of school for a prolonged period so that they could continue schooling at an age-appropriate grade. Despite these efforts, approximately half the Syrian children of primary school age in Lebanon did not attend school in the 2015/2016 school year. This can be compared to an average attendance rate of nearly 93 percent in Syria prior to the onset of the crisis.

This paper examines the impact of a cash transfer program, No Lost Generation (NLG), on school enrolment and attendance of displaced Syrian children in Lebanon. NLG provided monthly cash transfers for each child enrolled in an afternoon shift at a primary school, intended to cover the cost of transport to school for children ages 5–9 and offset a substantive portion of the income lost if older children (ages 10–14) attend school. The pilot was implemented in the 2016/2017 school year.

The authors employ a geographical regression discontinuity design comparing children in pilot governorates with children in neighboring governorates. A baseline questionnaire was administered to 1,440 households before the start of the 2016/2017 school year in September and October 2016 (before NLG was launched) and a follow-up questionnaire was administered to the same households by telephone in March 2017, several months into the program and the school year.


Main findings:

  • There was no evidence found that NLG increased school enrolment in general or in afternoon shifts. School enrolment among Syrian children rose rapidly across all Lebanon’s governorates during the period of the evaluation, resulting in supply-side capacity constraints that appear to have dampened positive enrolment impacts.
  • Household expenditure on the education of children receiving NLG benefits increased relative to the corresponding expenditure on children in the control governorates, partly due to the increased use of paid bus services to commute to and from school.
  • There were substantial impacts on school attendance among enrolled children, which increased by 0.5 days to 0.7 days per week, an improvement of about 20 per cent relative to the control group. This expansion is comparable among younger children (receiving lower-value transfers) and older children and also among boys and girls.


The authors conclude that supply-side constraints may hamper the delivery of goods and services to populations in need across many sectors, including education. Consequently demand-side interventions may not be able to achieve the outcomes desired unless they are implemented in coordination with supply-side interventions. The authors also emphasize that it is possible and important to identify opportunities to carry out rigorous evaluations of strategic humanitarian interventions even in challenging contexts.