Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Jordan, Turkey and LebanonOver 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
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in SyriaSyria has been a center of conflict for years, and with so much unrest, poverty in Syria is an unfortunate given. War has torn the country apart and citizens are paying the price. The percentage of Syrians living in poverty sits at an astounding 80%. The war in Syria has destroyed much of its wealth, infrastructure and workforce. From the beginning of the conflict in 2011 to 2014, the unemployment rate rose by 42.8%, leaving as many as three million Syrians jobless.

It is unsurprising then, that with poverty this severe, many citizens are attempting to escape. After four years of war in Syria, the country’s population has declined by 15%. Syria is second only to Palestine when it comes to emigrating refugees, with as many as 6.8 million fleeing the country. More than three million Syrians have fled to Turkey as it shares a border with Syria. However, there are organizations and foreign governments working to remedy this issue and aid these citizens in their escape from violence and poverty in Syria, including Paper Airplanes.

Humanitarian Aid

Paper Airplanes is a non-governmental organization (NGO)  that teaches refugees English and other skills to help them thrive in places where they have relocated. While poverty in Syria has caused many to become refugees, Paper Airplanes has risen to the challenge of educating these people in order to give them a chance at a better life. Bailey Ulbricht founded Paper Airplanes in 2014 after tutoring some students she met in Syria. Ulbricht then got some people to volunteer and the organization has grown since then with the goal of giving refugees the opportunity to continue their education.

So far, Paper Airplanes has been able to work with 2,411 students. More than three-fourths of the students finish a minimum of one semester. The organization offers several different programs to increase its students’ likelihood of getting a better job and of being able to pursue more advanced education. Refugees from Syria can choose to participate in one or many of its programs. Programs include:

  • English Program – English speakers tutor a refugee in the English language over the internet

  • Women in Tech – women are taught coding

  • Citizen Journalism – students are taught how to write strong articles and have them published

  • Turkish – Since many Syrians often find safe haven in Turkey, students can enroll in this program to help them adjust to their new environment

  • Youth Exchange – similar to the English Program, but with high school English tutors

  • Student Advising – volunteers help students with things like their resumes or scholarship applications

Tutoring with Paper Airplanes

This author had the opportunity to partner with Paper Planes for one month in July, working a few hours a week with a student. The student’s willingness to learn was inspiring. The orientation process thoroughly prepares the tutor for tutoring a refugee over Skype and the staff is extremely helpful and supportive. Tutoring a student in English when one has little to no experience can be daunting, but the staff at Paper Airplanes makes people feel very prepared while also allowing them to tailor the semester’s curriculum to the students’ needs.

It is inspiring to see people taking initiative and truly enjoying helping people to better their lives and the lives of their families. While hearing about how so many people go hungry and are affected by poverty, hearing what is solving those tragedies and healing people gives people hope for the future and makes them not only want to be a part of it but to bring it about. Hope truly does inspire people greater than sorrow and fear.

Looking Forward

The extreme poverty in Syria along with the crisis has caused many of its citizens to flee and seek shelter elsewhere. Amid all of the horrors, cultural shock and trauma, some individuals and organizations answered their cry for help. Paper Airplanes gives refugees the tools that they need to succeed, educating and therefore empowering them for their future. Paper Airplanes understands that when you educate refugees, the impact goes far beyond individual students. It sets up the next generation to succeed.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Flickr

Social Media Campaign

The continued conflict in Syria and its neighboring countries has left hundreds of thousands of refugees stranded and in dire need of help. Thankfully, some of these tragic stories still have happy endings.

Earlier this month, Gissur Simonarson, an Oslo, Norway-based activist, posted a photo on Twitter of a Syrian refugee in Beirut cradling his sleeping daughter in one arm while desperately attempting to sell a handful of pens with his free hand. Soon after posting the photo, Simonarson’s 6,000 plus followers took action.

Using the hashtag #BuyPens along with a full-on two-day search from Simonarson’s followers and some outside help, the two refugees were eventually tracked down. Carol Malouf, an activist who helped find the family, took a selfie with the daughter, Reem, and posted it on Twitter.

“Reem came to me, hugged me & asked to take a selfie,” Malouf posted. “What a lovely lively child. A modest home full of love.”

The social media campaign helped discover that Abdul, the father, arrived in Beirut after fleeing from Yarmouk, one of Syria’s most war-torn regions. After locating the pair, Simonarson set up an IndieGoGo page to help raise $5,000 for Abdul and Reem. The page was completely funded in under half an hour.

After a single day, more than $80,000 had been raised for the family. Abdul is currently planning on sending his two children to school as well as helping other Syrian refugees with the money raised. With over 220,000 casualties so far, positive stories like these are few and far between, but Simonarson is remaining positive after witnessing such goodwill.

“I think that this campaign proves that humanity is not lost just yet,” Simonarson tweeted.

Alexander Jones

Sources: CNN, Independent, International Business Times

Photo: Flickr

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees recently reported that around 74 percent of Syrian families who have fled into Lebanon face food insecurity. With the refugee population in Lebanon expected to increase about 36 percent by next January, aid organizations are moving quickly to secure enough food for each Syrian family.

Conflict in Syria is the problem’s driving force. Heavy bombardments in Syria force refugees into Lebanon out of fear for their safety.

The influx of refugees strains Lebanese host communities, many of which lacked educational and economic resources even prior to the sudden population increase. Since the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, Lebanon’s CPI has increased from values in the sixties to the current level of 100.61 Index Points—a reflection of the strain placed on Lebanese consumers. The influx creates challenges for farmers in Lebanon as well, as demonstrated by 2012‘s shortfall of 55,000 mt of cereal.

Despite all of this, the Lebanese government has not broken its commitment to 1951’s Geneva Convention: its borders have remained open. In Lebanon, Syrians can access education and health services, and 70 percent of those families who register with the UNHCR can obtain food vouchers regularly.

But assistance has on the whole been inadequate to ensure Syrians meet their physical needs. Syrians have struggled to make up the difference themselves. Nearly 20 percent of refugees lack jobs, and the average daily income of families has hovered around U.S. $15 per day. It has been estimated that families need $300 a week to meet their needs, so average incomes are far from sufficient at this point.

Food vouchers provide some relief, but rising food prices have reduced their efficacy.

However, even though the food security situation in Lebanon needs improvement, one must recognize the even worse situation in Syria. Speaking of her life in Syria, one woman from Yabroud said, “We couldn’t afford to buy anything, my children were living on bread.” She added, “They used to cry a lot from hunger.”

With such a powerful driving force as hunger, refugees will surely continue to pour into Lebanon from Syria. Since Syrians will rely primarily on organizations other than the Lebanese government for aid relief, now is perhaps an especially effective time to donate to aid organizations working in Lebanon. Organizations to consider are Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, CARE, the UNHCR and UNICEF—along with many others.

– Ryan Yanke
Sources: Trading Economics, World Food Programme, ShanghaiDaily, UNHCR, CNN
Photo: flickr

syria war
There are now over two million Syrians registered as refugees with the UNHCR. The vast majority of the refugees have fled to neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. The massive influx of people has caused tensions between the residents of the countries and refugees trying to escape conflict. Many Syrian refugees are fleeing their war torn country with little to no items, hoping to start over in a new country. Citizens in many countries have been less than welcoming to refugees due to overstretched resources and inadequate aid from other countries.

The locals have grown wary of being outnumbered by so many refugees. They are not eager to let them establish roots in an area that cannot accommodate more people staying there permanently. In addition to limited resources, there are political and ethnic sensitivities that add to the strain between residents and refugees.

Lebanon has received over 800,000 refugees as of December. Lebanon is a small country west of Syria that is roughly the size of Delaware. Resources were already stretched providing for Lebanon’s four million citizens and the past two years have brought a 20% population increase from refugees alone. In November 2013, the first refugee camp was opened on the border of Syria and Lebanon to accommodate the influx of refugees pushed out of Syria by increased fighting in the area. In the area surrounding the camp, refugees greatly outnumber the locals living in the area. In one case, an informal camp that housed seasonal Syrian migrant workers for years before the civil war, was burned to the ground.

Tensions rose when the landlords who owned the land the camp was built on, ordered the occupants to leave and gave them a 24-hour deadline. The villagers claimed refugees staying in the camp assaulted a local disabled man and returned before the 24 hours were up with Molotov cocktails, quickly igniting the camp. The mayor of the village claimed the fire started due to infighting between the residents in the camp. A local doctor concluded there was no evidence of an assault and the Syrian Opposition Coalition, working to remove Assad from office, called the eviction of the camp “inhumane and unethical.”

Jordan borders Syria to the south. Six million people live in Jordan and approximately 500,000 Syrians refugees have entered the country. Like Lebanon, resources in Jordan are already stretched thin and the massive influx of refugees is causing further strain and tension. In an interview with the New York Times, Syrian refugee Noman Sarhan said Jordanians tend to lump Syrians together into one group and blame them for many of the country’s issues. Sarhan came to Jordan 2012 and started a business in the city of Mafraq, but is still looked at as a refugee.

Many Syrian refugees entering Jordan have opted to move into cities rather than stay in camps. Moving into cities allows newcomers a better chance to get a job or establish a business similar to one they had in Syria. Syrians moving in and getting jobs starting business sometimes comes at the expense of a Jordanian, causing discord between the hosts and the refugees. Refugees and government officials fear that unless conditions drastically improve, they will continue to face hostility from residents in their host country.

Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: New York Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Post

World Food Programme Helps Syrian Refugees

On average, the World Food Programme (WFP) feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries yearly. In 2013, the WFP has focused its giving on refugees from the Syrian conflict that have been displaced by the fighting. The WFP has helped 3,000 people in February alone and plans on helping an additional 4,000 by the end of the month.

In order to receive the electronic vouchers which can be redeemed for food at supermarkets, the refugees must register with the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR).  More than 90,000 Syrians have been displaced by the conflict, yet only 15,000 have registered with the UNHCR.

The WFP has launched this campaign at the request of the Egyptian government and is focusing on only the most impoverished of the refugees who have drained their savings.

“WFP plans to provide assistance to as many as 30,000 Syrians in Egypt by June 2013,” said WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Egypt, GianPietro Bordignon. They work closely with the beneficiaries while implementing the program.  Egyptians have been  helping WFP by offering their homes “to be used for voucher distributions” and their voluntary contributions have impressed the WFP immensely.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: World Food Programme
Photo: NYTimes