Thousands of Syrian children in Jordan's Za'atari camp missing out on education | Editor's Choice | Ammon News


Thousands of Syrian children in Jordan's Za'atari camp missing out on education


[7/29/2017 6:56:55 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Thousands of Syrian refugee children in Jordan are missing out on an education despite the provision last year of 75,000 new school places to cater for them.

The country pledged to get all out-of-school refugees back into education by September 2017, but charities have warned the current system remains plagued by difficulties. Problems include lack of support for students, a shortage of qualified teachers and alleged bullying.

The news comes five years after the Za’atari camp in northern Jordan was opened to cater for the huge influx of Syrian refugees escaping war in their homeland.

Tens of thousands of children attend makeshift schools in Za’atari camp, and charities say there is an urgent need for more trained teachers and improved safety measures so that thousands of vulnerable children can return to learning.

During the course of the conflict up to 1.3 million Syrians are estimated to have crossed the border, placing a huge strain on Jordan’s resources and education system.

Many young people, already traumatised by war, fell into child labour or were forced into early marriages to ease the financial burdens facing their families.

Almost 50% of Syrian households in Jordan rely in some way on income generated by a child, according to Save the Children.

Teenagers struggling to catch up on the years of schooling they have missed while working to help support their families remain the worst affected, despite recent efforts to open up access to public schools across the country.

At last year’s international donor conference in London, the Jordanian government vowed to tackle the crisis by creating 50,000 new public school places for refugee children and an additional 25,000 places in non-formal school settings.

But less than half of the newly allocated public school places have been taken up, with only 24,542 Syrian youngsters enrolled in formal education in the 2016-17 school year.

Across the country, 198 schools are running a double shift system whereby a different cohort of children attends in either the morning or the afternoon.

Aya Abu Sitteh, Save the Children’s advocacy manager in Jordan, said: “The government of Jordan has taken a bold move by opening these places in an effort to help Syrian children back to school, but three to four hours of schooling is not enough to provide quality education for the children.

“They have started the process of training extra teachers but it’s obviously not covering the complex needs of the children already in school.

“Also there is a lack of resources to provide the remedial classes inside schools for those who need extra support, particularly those who have missed out on years of their education.”

In some areas, Syrian children reported dropping out of school after complaining of bullying and harassment from Jordanian children and teachers. They were targeted because they were unable to keep up with lessons.

At the Za’atari camp, where 15 schools serve a population of 80,000 refugees, the challenges are further complicated by security issues.

Girls, in particular, have been subjected to abuse and harassment on the way to and from school.

Abu Sitteh said: “This problem has left a lot of parents removing their girls from school and once a girl is out of school she is being at risk of being wed at a young age to ease the financial pressures on her family.”

Many children and teenagers find themselves trapped in work in order to support their families, causing them to miss out on vital years of their education.

Until recently, 14-year-old Ali, one of five siblings, had been unable to attend school. After his father left the family to remarry, he got a job picking fruit to help support his mother and siblings. As a result, he missed out on two years of lessons.

After attending a drop-in centre for child labourers at the Za’atari camp he was encouraged to return to school, but struggled to keep up with lessons and has since quit.

He explained: “When I go to school I don’t understand a thing. If I ask my friend to help me the teacher would hit us. That’s why I have decided to stop going to school.”

“The kids that are able to understand school should stay at school. Those who don’t understand, they have no future.”

Five years ago the Za’atari camp was just a smattering of tents on the horizon 13km from the border of Syria. The settlement has since expanded exponentially to become Jordan’s fourth biggest city.

Since it opened, huge strides have been made to improve the education provision at the camp. Measures introduced include Save the Children’s “back to school” campaign, which has already provided learning support for 200,000 children across the country.

However, Abu Sitteh said: “Despite efforts made by civil society to improve the schooling environment and tackle bullying and harassment, there is still much work to do.”

She added: “We are calling on the international community to support Jordan in delivering its pledge to invest in the education of Syrian children.”

*The Guardian

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