Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENÈAR /ds

The United Nations needs to raise 500 million dollars to be able to provide education to 1 million Syrian refugee children living in neighbouring countries, Gordon Brown, former British prime minister and UN special envoy for education, said Tuesday.

Brown said that meeting the target 750 million dollars earmarked for education could give a future to Syrian children fleeing their home country and save them from child labour and child marriage, which have been on the rise.

Speaking ahead of a Syria pledging conference to be held in London on February 4, Brown said that Syrian children living in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey could be provided with education using a double-shift system in which local students would use classrooms in the morning and Syrians would use them in the afternoon.

The programme, which has been used in Lebanon, costs 500 dollars per child per school year.

Brown said he hoped the programme could serve 1 million Syrian children this year and cover all 1.3 million children living in the region by next year.

"This is a ray of hope for children, the majority of whom had not had the chance of education since they left Syria," Brown said.

He noted that it would allow Syrian families to stay in the region instead of having to undertake dangerous journeys to Europe to provide education for their children.

Brown warned that the lack of schooling has already led to a rise in child labour and child marriage. The rate of child marriage among Syrian refugee girls has risen from 12 to 26 per cent, while one-third of refugee children are engaged in child labour, according to recent estimates.

"We know from experience ... that the best way of avoiding child exploitation is to make sure that these children are at school," Brown said.

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