Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

Getting Syrian Refugee Students to School Safely

Ameena is a bus escort volunteer in Azraq camp, Jordan. Photo: Amanda Nero/© IOM

Mar 12 2018 - Seven years of war in Syria has not deterred Ameena from being fully involved in her children’s education. The mother of four and her husband Abu Hamzeh fled their hometown of Homs for the safety of Jordan’s Azraq Refugee Camp.

Located in central Jordan, the camp lies on a desert flatland where conditions are harsh year-round. Prior to the introduction of an IOM-UNICEF school bus service in 2016, children as young as six had to walk up to two kilometres each way. Older siblings would typically accompany their younger brother or sister, but this often meant that they had to make the commute twice a day, as girls go to school in the morning and boys in the afternoon. Ultimately, this discouraged parents from sending their children to school.

Children as young as six years old used to walk up to two kilometres every day just to attend school. Photo: Amanda Nero/© IOM

The school bus project relies on volunteer escorts, which includes the parents of some of the school-kids. They are responsible for ensuring that children ride the bus safely and also keep an attendance record.

There are approximately 15,000 school-age kids living in Azraq camp. Photo: Laura Sisniega/© IOM

While in haven from the conflict which has ravaged her country, Ameena is one of the 66 bus escorts responsible for seeing more than 9,000 Syrian children living in Azraq camp arrive safely at school.

“People in the camp, our neighbours and friends, support the initiative of school bus transportation. They are more disposed to sending the kids to school, because they feel that they are safe,” Ameena said proudly. “Not to mention that the kids are much more excited to go to school by bus!”

The project, which is aligned with the No Lost Generation initiative committed to supporting Syrian children affected by the conflict, also provides special assistance to kids living with disabilities. Escorts are trained in techniques to help children with disabilities; buses are adapted to those students’ needs.

The volunteer bus escorts are selected based on the regulatory procedures in place for cash-based assistance to give beneficiaries equal and transparent access to such opportunities. Cash for work has the potential to confer greater dignity to people and more accurately meet their specific needs.

“I encourage every family to enroll their kids in school,” said Abu Hamzeh. “Education must be a priority and it will provide a better future for their kids,” he added. Photo: Amanda Nero/© IOM

In 2018, IOM Turkey is planning to provide school bus services to some 20,000 Syrian refugee children living across seven provinces every day.

Syrian refugees in southern Turkey live in urban areas where Turkish and Syrian kids play side-by-side every day. Syrian kids like 12-year-old Mahmoud and 13-year-old Amjad have many Turkish friends and desperately want to become fluent in Turkish to break any language barrier between them.

“Out of the 2.5 million Syrian refugee children living in Syria’s neighbouring countries, 43 per cent are out-of-school.”

Unaware of IOM’s bus programme, Mahmood spent his first few years in Turkey not in school but working with his brother at a bakery. Amjad is from the besieged town of Deir ez-Zor, where airdrops were until recently the only means of delivering aid. He also was unable to attend school in Turkey until the start of the IOM school transportation service.

Out of the 2.5 million Syrian refugee children living in Syria’s five neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, 43 per cent are out-of-school.

A huge football fan and aspiring to become a teacher, Amjad’s favourite part of the day is kicking the ball around with his friends in the school garden. Photo: © IOM

IOM’s school transportation services are also available in the summer for children taking catch-up and Turkish language classes. Nearly 7,000 Syrian boys and girls went to summer school by an IOM bus in 2017.

At the request of the Ministry of Education, IOM has expanded its transportation services to Syrian teachers attending Turkish language courses, who would otherwise have to spend a crippling amount of their salary on public transportation.

IOM’s 2018 education programme for Syrian refugees in Turkey also includes the rehabilitation of a hundred classrooms attended by 7,500 Syrian and Turkish children.

IOM is appealing for USD 10 million to facilitate access to education for over 35,000 Syrian children living in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. This is part of IOM’s 2018 USD 194 million appeal for Syria and the five neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

Despite some areas in Syria witnessing a reduction in violence, over 13 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance, including 6.1 million internally displaced people.

Nearly 3 million men, women and children are living in hard-to-reach and/or besieged areas with only sporadic access to humanitarian assistance.

Read our appeal here.

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags