Over 2.5 million children have been displaced by the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria. About 1.5 million children live in the neighboring counties of Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. These children have experienced fear, terror, poverty, hunger and uncertainty. Once settled in their new homes, over half still do not have access to the formal education they need. A high cost for tuition and materials, lack of transportation to the school and a language barrier all prevent these children from receiving the education they deserve. Universal education for Syrian refugee children has become a daunting and essential task for Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
The governments of these three nations and other organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Human Rights Watch are working to ensure that each of these 1.5 million children receives the education they deserve. Here are some of the steps providing education for Syrian refugee children in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Educating Syrian Children in Turkey
The 2016-2017 academic year was the first year in Turkey in which more Syrian children were in school than out of it. Roughly 490,000 children or 60% of the population received some form of formal education. Upon arrival in Turkey, these children attend a UNICEF-supported program called the TEC (formally Temporary Education Center, now the Transitional Education Center). These centers exist both inside and outside the refugee camps. In addition, it educates 64% of Syrian children in school in Turkey and offers courses in their native language. Sometimes the courses are at low or no cost to the families.
The Turkish Ministry on National Education (MoNE) is slowly integrating children who attend TECs into Turkish state schools. The issue of language barriers continues to be addressed and MoNE plans to fully assimilate Syrian children into Turkish schools by the end of 2020. This is a goal that was established prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Educating Syrian Children in Jordan
Jordan has made great strides in recent years, with only 10% of Syrian children not receiving primary school education. The government and other organizations such as Program Aid, Islamic Relief and Human Rights Watch have worked together to ensure that each child receives formal education in some form.
However, this support ends when the children grow older. The enrollment rate for Syrian students drops significantly, from 90% in primary schools to less than 30% in secondary schools. In June 2020, a 61-page report entitled “I Want to Continue to Study: Barriers to Secondary Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Jordan” came out. It details the struggles of refugee children once they transition out of primary school. Additionally, Human Rights Watch encourages Jordan and other countries to take action to ensure that every Syrian children’s education continues after primary school.
Educating Syrian Children in Lebanon
Roughly 57% of the 448,000 school-aged Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are enrolled in public school. This number is growing each academic year. The Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) has received financial support from UNHCR, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other organizations. As a result, this enables MEHE to provide free education for Syrian refugee children (as well as Lebanese children) through the twelfth grade. This program, entitled Reaching All Children With Education (RACE), initiated a sharp increase in enrollment. In addition, MEHE opened 376 new schools between the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years. UNHCR also provides resources for children not yet enrolled in school, both in the community and in the schools themselves. This is to ensure that children receive the education they need.
Many Syrian refugees still remain out of school. However, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have all made great strides in making education more accessible for Syrian children. Ensuring education for Syrian refugee children has not been an easy task. Yet, these countries have worked hard to make it possible for these children to receive the education they deserve.
– Daryn Lenahan