As we know the war in Syria has been ongoing for over two years now. According to Unicef, the number of people affected has soared with more than 6.8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance; more than 4.25 million people have been displaced inside Syria; and over 170,000 people have been forced to seek refuge in public shelters; over 93,000 people killed.
Over 1.8 million people, including a million children have sought refuge in the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt – with the numbers of those leaving Syria projected to reach 3.45 million by the end of 2013.
Across the sub-region the humanitarian situation in Jordan, Lebanon and neighbouring countries is of serious concern. Refugee flows continue to increase rapidly, with more than 7,000 Syrians fleeing the country every day.
One in every five schools in Syria is either damaged or sheltering the internally displaced, impacting hundreds of thousands of children whose schooling has been disrupted, or even halted.
A UNESCO report, released in July of this year, underscored the impact of ongoing conflicts in the region on education. Half of the world’s out-of-school children- 28.5 million primary school-age children live in conflict-affected countries. Of these 28.5 million school-age children, 4 million live in the Arab States. The vast majority, 95%, live in low and lower middle income countries.
This represented approximately 84 percent of the out-of-school children in the Arab world. A big contribution to this is the current situation in Syria where hundreds of thousands of children cannot attend school for different reasons such as poverty, lack of transportation and safety, the main reason being civil unrest.
Motasem is a sixteen year old Syrian refugee living in Lebanon. He left Syria with only the clothes on his back. He has been unable to graduate due to the war and is aware of schools being targeted and school children being killed on their way home from school.
“Now students don’t go to school, because when they did there were shells – I think they targeted the school because shells fell all across it. Students were leaving to go home in the afternoon when it started and two children died – they were both very young. I am in ninth grade but this war stopped me from graduating and now my future is destroyed.”
This case study in the UNESCO doc shared with the EFA Global Monitoring Report by Save the Children.
Dominique Soguel, a journalist focused on the Middle East, is Women’s eNews’ Arabic site editor and head of a special Women’s eNews team reporting on female refugees in Jordan reports:
Children across the region (in Jordan, Amman and Zataari) have been gradually returning to school throughout September after their summer breaks. But the vast majority of Syrian students, whether inside or outside the country, do not have that luxury.
Zaatari refugee camp is the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan and considered the second largest in the world. Home to more than 120,000 Syrians of which 30,000 are school-age students and three schools that are only capable of enrolling a total of 15,000 students.
Nuraan, a 12 year old girl and her sister are among the three-quarters of the 150,000 Syrian school-aged children in Jordan who are unable to attend school.
She says she spends a large chunk of the day sitting inside with her mother and father because they couldn’t afford to send her to school. Nuraan hopes to become a lawyer to ‘help release those who have been jailed unjustly.’
The last day that Nuraan and her sister attended school in 2011, in the outskirts of Damascus, an explosion blew out the windows of their classrooms, recalls their mother.
“My girls stopped going to school after that,” she says. “They are dying to go back to school, but even if they want to go, I must be reassured of their safety. There is no bus here. It’s a back road and anybody could snatch them. How can we be sure of their safety?”
In the basement of one of the buildings, two Syrian women are doing what they can to keep their young charges focused on the alphabet. With only a few teaching props, such as crayons and markers, it’s no easy task. Like the children, the two women are refugees and are contending with trauma.
“The children are slowly overcoming it,” says one of the women, referring to trauma. “They are moving forward. In the beginning, if they heard an airplane they would all hide under the desks. In the beginning, I couldn’t stand in front of windows, because I still was scared of coming under sniper ”.
Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, emphasised that “education is one of the basic rights of every child, including Syrian Refugee children”, at a meeting with Baroness Floella Benjamin, University of Exeter’s Chancellor, the ceremonial head of the University.
“The Syrian crisis has deprived many children of waking up early morning to go to their schools that were destroyed… Deprived them of benefiting from their teachers who mentor them in the basic principles of life… And even deprived them of playing with their friends who they do not know if they are still alive”, Shaikha Jawaher said.
She added, “it seems like providing appropriate educational services for each refugee child is a hard task or even impossible in the present tragic circumstances, but with your big hearts nothing will be impossible”.
We at Ummul Hasanaat will be launching a Stationery Drive for Syria soon, where a list of educational aids will be collected from various drop-off points in South Africa. It will be picked up and moved into containers and then shipped by Gift of the Givers, the largest disaster response NGO of African origin on the African continent. Keep your hearts and eyes open…