AMMONNEWS-The government is set to open a school in the country’s first Syrian refugee camp, officials say, in the latest sign that Amman is bracing for an extended stay for its Syrian guests.
According to the education ministry, the school will be located in the Zaatari Camp, a collection of some 2,000 tents in the outskirts of the northeastern border city of Mafraq, which opened last week as the main destination for Syrian refugees.
In a press statement issued last week, Education Minister Fayez Saud said authorities aim to open the school, which will follow the ministry’s curricula, before the new school year starts.
According to UNICEF, which will be operating the schools alongside the ministry, classes will be taught by ministry staff in a collection of furnished trailers within the camp, as part of an initiative supported by EU funds.
The education ministry, UNICEF and the international NGO Save the Children are currently providing remedial education for school-age Syrian students across the country, who account for nearly half of the 150,000 Syrians who have fled to Jordan since the start of the conflict, according to the UN.
The school’s establishment marks the end of a policy under which authorities bussed Syrian students from so-called transit facilities to public schools to attend classes with their Jordanian peers and is set to become the first school exclusively for refugees since the Palestinian crisis.
UN officials say the Zaatari school’s establishment comes in recognition that although Jordan opened the doors to its public schools to some 7,000 Syrian students this year, the country’s education system is unlikely to be able to cope with the influx of thousands of additional students.
Security sources say the government moved to open the school as part of a new policy restricting the movement of Syrians within Jordan and separating refugees from host communities due to growing fears of attempts by regime agents and rebels to infiltrate the Kingdom.
Although the interior ministry on Sunday reinstated a policy under which Syrians residing in transit facilities can secure their release with a financial guarantee signed by a Jordanian, sources say the programme will not extend to Zaatari residents, leaving the facility a “closed camp”.
Over the last week, authorities have bussed some 2,000 Syrians from transit facilities to the Zaatari camp in a bid to phase out these guarded housing complexes that relief officials say are no longer able to cope with a refugee influx that has reached some 1,500 people per day.
While Zaatari Camp residents will be restricted to the new school, education ministry officials say Syrians already residing in host communities across the country will be free to register their children in standard public schools.
*Jordan Times/Taylor Luck