With the conflict in neighboring Syria in its sixth year, Jordan has taken in nearly 1.4 million refugees. Roughly 100,000 of the migrants live in the Azraq and Za’atari refugee camps, where nearly 40 percent of the residents are children. Education is an important service in these camps, keeping the children on top of their studies and providing stability and structure to help them cope with loss, fear and stress.
Most Syrian refugee children attend formal Jordanian schools inside the refugee camps. However, many do not qualify for these classes. Kept out of school by violence in Syria and a long journey to the camps, these children are in danger of falling between the cracks. For 18,000 students struggling to keep up, Relief International offers remedial classes in math, science, Arabic and English for grades 1 to 12 with funding from UNICEF.
In addition to academic instruction, Relief International’s education centers provide supervised recreational activities such as soccer and art classes. Students enjoy team building and stretch their imaginations in safe environments. They also get the chance to meet kids their own age – just like they might have at home in Syria.
All of RI’s teachers, case managers and community mobilizers are Syrians who live in the camps. These adults share the same experiences as the children, making them empathetic to their needs. Local Jordanians work as support staff, fostering greater understanding and partnership between the refugees and their host community.
To ensure that students continue on their educational path and have the opportunity to succeed, RI also uses funding from UNICEF to prepare them for the high-school graduation exam called Tawjihi. In its first session, the program turned out eight students who passed the exam and won privately funded scholarships to study at Jordanian universities. RI’s Tawjihi program was the only one whose students passed the exam.
At the beginning of 2016, Relief International received funding from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to build on its remedial, informal and non-formal educational programs. Nearly 5,000 more children are being reached by the addition of nearly 400 volunteers. Support from Goldman Sachs provided 20 additional classrooms inside the camps, extending educational opportunities to another 2,100 children. The support from Goldman Sachs also allowed RI to create a pilot program to serve 300 young people, ages 15 to 24 years old, outside the camps in Jordan’s Zarqa governorate.
Overall, RI’s educational programming supports 25,000 children through traditional classes, remedial training, recreational activities and Tawjihi preparation. By spotlighting education for the Syrian children living in flux and for their Jordanian hosts, Relief International hopes to offer the tools for a promising future.