While the civil war rages, education in Syria fails to be a priority. Unfortunately, those forced to flee suffer a similar fate. The U.N. reports that only 50% of refugees, from Syria or elsewhere, are enrolled in primary education. Education for refugee children is invaluable; it provides safety, stability, psychological support and social support.
Refugee services in various countries have set up different types of education for refugee children. UNICEF calls this initiative the “No Lost Generation.” Below are three different forms of education various countries and organizations have made available for refugee children.
Integration into Local Schools
In some places, refugee children are integrated into the local school system. This is one of the fastest ways to assimilate children into their new environment as well as help normalize their lives.
Unfortunately, many places are not able to handle the extreme increase in the school system. Because of their small populations and large numbers of refugees, 56% of refugee children in Jordan and 80% in Lebanon are not in school. Those who do attend face many challenges and often drop out.
At best, schools are overcrowded and well-intentioned teachers lack the training and resources to assist students who have suffered so much psychological distress.
At worst, refugee children are blamed for the crowding and abused by their teachers and fellow students. UNICEF has set up teaching training to improve education in Syria and nearby countries.
Some refugee programs provide additional assistance to help ease the transition for incoming students. Refugees are often out of school for months or even years. Returning to school often involves overcoming these gaps as well as language or cultural barriers.
Lexington Refugee Ministries in Kentucky provides after school and summer programming to help children adjust to their new schools. Volunteers assist with tutoring, social adjustment and college readiness workshops. Similar programs are popping up in various countries.
UNICEF and Save the Children International have partnered to set up drop-in centers in refugee camps globally. While this does not have the same advantages as traditional schooling, it provides flexibility necessary for many refugees.
Because of a lack of food security, many refugees prioritize work over education. Although they are not a permanent solution, drop-in centers allow children to keep up their education while they work or move around. The children receive training in a trade, basic education and an opportunity to play with other kids.
Education for refugee children is extremely valuable, but traditional schooling is not always an option. While it can be frustrating to have schools bursting at the seams, it is important to remember that the children are victims, not perpetrators, of the situation.
UNICEF tells the story of a young boy named Ahmed who has been able to receive some schooling by attending a drop-in center. He says, “I feel happy here. At this place, I can have fun, and every day I learn so much. The math I learn here also helps me with my work.” For kids like Ahmed, education is the best hope for a better future.
– Jeanette I. Burke