Getting Syria’s lost generation of children into school
By Patrick Nicholson
“I can’t forget the day when my father decided we must leave Syria,” said Shaymaa’ Adileh, a 15-year old refugee. “We were really afraid. I could see how worried my father was. He wanted us to be safe.”
Shaymaa’s family escaped to Jordan in May 2013. She is one of over one million young people who have fled the civil war in Syria. Most face a harsh reality of hunger and disease. Many are haunted by nightmares of the violence they witnessed.
They have lost months if not years of education. At least 3 million Syrian children have dropped out of school since the onset of the crisis, with approximately 2.2 million children out of school inside Syria itself.
They are Syria’s lost generation of children.
Shaymaa’ s family found a room to rent in the town of Karak. They registered at a Caritas Jordan centre where they received help. Caritas staff suggested she enroll with her two brothers and a sister at a non-formal education school Caritas runs at the centre.
“Going to school at the Caritas centre has brought me hope that there is still something worthwhile to live for,” she said. The children take classes in English, Arabic and Maths. They catch up with what they missed in Syrian. The top-up classes are designed to help them stay in the same education level for their age.
They also play sports and games and take handicraft lessons.
“We learned how to use drawings and paintings to help express how and what we feel,” she said. “The art class was my favourite. We were asked to draw the first thing that came to our minds. I thought of the feeling of unity, love and respect that I receive here.
“Thank you Caritas”
Only half of Syrian refugee children go to school in Lebanon
“Many children are unable to go to school,” said Mgr Simon Faddoul, President of Caritas Lebanon. “Many are living in desperate conditions. I’ve met families struggling to survive in tents surrounded by snow, sometimes without shoes or warm clothes.”
Ahmad is a nine year old Syrian refugee. He arrived in Lebanon less than a year ago with his family. They rent a dilapidated two room-apartment for $250 a month in Batroun. With such a heavy rent charge, his parents couldn’t afford to pay the tuition fees for school for him or his six year old brother, Ali.
Caritas Lebanon runs an outreach activity for school assistance. Its social workers contacted the family. They were able to get the brothers enrolled in school for free as part of a UNCIEF programme.
Ahmad and Ali now attend Estphan Attieh public school in Batroun. They also receive school material like school bags and stationary. They have many new friends, both Lebanese and Syrian.
“It was very hard for me to accept that my children had to live in such desperate conditions, without a real home and access to education,” said their father. “The assistance they receive is a bright light in our desperate situation. Without it, our children’s life would have been a real disaster.”
Caritas is supporting education, tutoring, recreational activities and trauma counseling for Syrian children in Lebanon and Jordan.