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Providing Safe Spaces for the Youngest Syrian Refugees

Jordan. Elie Gardner/RI

Providing Safe Spaces for the Youngest Syrian Refugees

Since the war in Syria broke out in 2011, more than one million Syrian children have been born in exile as refugees.

The Syrian crisis has sparked displacement, instability, and poverty –all of which have contributed to alarming rates of forced child labor and early marriage inside the camps. Many students enrolled in Relief International’s remedial education courses, Drop Out program, and Tawjihi prep course are either married with children or serve as the primary caretakers for their young siblings.

Through strategic partnership with UNICEF, OCHA – Jordan Humanitarian Fund (JHF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Relief International established an Early Childhood Development Center in each camp to support the needs of the youngest Syrian refugees. The center’s are located just feet from our classrooms, allowing students to drop off their children and younger siblings before class. This is of particular benefit to young women, many of whom have had to put their educations on hold because there are few childcare options available in the camps.

The majority of all Syrian refugees in Jordan’s Azraq and Za’atari refugee camps are under the age of 18. The conditions of their refugeehood, which include widespread poverty, instability, and severe interruptions to schooling due to displacement, have forced many young students to drop out of school. Others remain at risk of dropping out. There are a number of contributing factors to the high rate of students discontinuing their education including: overcrowded classrooms, lack of trained and qualified teachers, and poor performance on tests. These challenges are further compounded by the harsh realities of living in a refugee camp.

Relief International’s Early Childhood Development Centers are operated in conjunction with our other educational programming to ensure Syrian students, the majority of whom are under the age of 18, receive the specialized services they need to succeed in school. Many students in both camps have either dropped out of school or are at risk of dropping out as a result of the harsh realities of life as a refugee. A mix of factors including, classrooms, lack of trained and qualified teachers, and poor performances, contribute to why some students have paused their education. Our centers provide comprehensive support to students enrolled in our educational programs by providing childcare serves while they attend class. These services are provided to students for free of charge.

Each center is staffed by full-time facilitators and Syrian refugees who care for children aged 0 to 5 years old. The centers operate in two shifts, where these facilitators teach lessons designed to prepare children for kindergarten. Our facilitators also provide lessons on positive parenting methods for children’s parents and guardians.

Project Profile


JORDAN — Azraq and Za'atari camps


  • sector_icons_education_blk.png Education


Jordan. Elie Gardner/RI
Jordan. Elie Gardner/RI
Jordan. Elie Gardner/RI
Jordan. Elie Gardner/RI
Jordan. Elie Gardner/RI
Children stand in the doorway of Relief International's Early Childhood Development Center in Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp.
Children watch a puppet show to learn about different animals.
Children play outside on the playground at one of Relief International's education centers.
A boy draws in a coloring book at one of our Early Childhood Development Centers.
Relief International staff play pretend, showing a young refugee how to make eggs for breakfast.