Refugees in JordanThere were 655,833 Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan in November 2016. Of these immigrants, 87 percent live below the national poverty line, which is equivalent to $95 per person each month. The average debt for Syrian households living outside refugee camps rose to $1,000 each by the end of 2016. In addition, 26 percent reported financial dependence on family members holding exploitative, high-risk or illegal jobs in order to meet basic needs. Education for Syrian refugees in Jordan is a failing system that needs adjustment.

The Syrian refugee crisis remains the most prominent humanitarian disaster in recent history. According to UNICEF, the most fundamental act for reconstructing a stable community is providing equal access to education for Syrian refugees.

Approximately 265,000 out of the nearly 660,000 Syrians registered in Jordan are under the age of 18. The U.N. reports that 97 percent of these children are at risk of not attending school due to financial hardship.

Jordan spends more than 12 percent of its GDP on education, yet the school system is still in need of financial support. The system struggled even before the influx of refugees from Syria.

Regarding access to education for Syrian refugees, the Ministry of Education has opened a number of additional school spaces and relaxed barriers to registration. Consequently, there are now approximately 170,000 refugee children enrolled in the current school year.

The Ministry of Education also created an action plan to open 102 additional double-shift public schools. Thus, the plan will accommodate 50,000 new enrollment spaces. The plan initiated a “catch-up program” administered through public schools. In addition, the plan will operate in conjunction with education ministry teachers and will offer informal education to 25,000 children between the ages of eight and 12. One thousand of these children have already enrolled.

The primary issues regarding access to education for Syrian refugees surround legal status and documentation, restrictions on business ownership and school dropout rates among migrant populations. The Ministry of Education seeks to address each of these issues through its reformed action plan.

To provide some support, UNICEF’s 2017–2018 No Lost Generation initiative promises to promote equal access to integrated child protection, education, youth engagement and livelihood programs. The initiative is meant to strengthen the quality of education for Syrian refugees.

Still, almost 91,000 Syrian children registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees remain without access to formal education. A 2016 UNICEF survey conducted within Amman, Irbid and Mafraq found that 10 percent of Syrian refugee families removed their children from school to save educational expenses. Six percent had sent their children to work, and three percent had their daughters married in childhood. Childhood marriages are a common occurrence because they help bear the economic burden and safety concerns associated with refugee status.

Without continuous interest and more equitable support from the international community, the educational situation for refugees will not improve. From healthcare and legal status to job opportunities and education for Syrian refugees, millions, including the internally displaced and host communities, face an uncertain future.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

Education for Refugee ChildrenWhile 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.

Additional Programing

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.

Drop-in Centers

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
Photo: Flickr