MAFRAQ, Jordan, 8 October 2012 – “I’m very happy that school has started,” says Tabark, 12, who is in her fifth day of class at Za’atari refugee camp’s new emergency school. “I enjoy Arabic and writing the most. I would like to be an Arabic teacher.” Report by David Youngmeyer
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso visit a newly opened school in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. Guy Degen reports. Watch in RealPlayer
Tabark and her five school-age siblings are among about 2,200 Syrian children attending the new school, which opened just days ago. With about 30,000 Syrian refugees sheltering at the camp, UNICEF plans to increase capacity to 5,000 children.
Investing in education is investing in the future
During a joint visit to the school, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake met with children and teachers.
At the same time, the European Commission announced a donation of €4.6 million to UNICEF for emergency education programmes in Jordan, benefiting Syrian refugee children as well as children of host communities. This donation brings the European Union’s total contribution for 2012 to €10 million.
“We have to ensure that families who have had to flee their country can live in decent conditions and that their children do not lose their right to education and to a brighter future,” said Mr. Barroso. “Investing in education is investing in the future. I am therefore glad that the EU can support schooling of Syrian refugee children in Za’atari.”
Mr. Lake said that UNICEF is extremely grateful for the support that the European Union and other donors have provided to the emergency response for children.
“We’ve just been talking to the students in these tents and both hearing terrible stories of how families have been separated, of how they have such a difficult journey in getting here, and yet you can hear them singing in the tents,” he said. “You can see in their faces how happy they are to have an opportunity not only to learn, but to come together with the other students in a place of safety where they can begin to recover. These children represent many more children still inside Syria. UNICEF has been working throughout this crisis in Syria.”
School and teachers supported
The new school includes 14 large tent classrooms, which are arranged in a compound. The school operates on double shifts – girls in the morning, boys in the afternoon – to give as many children access to education as possible.
UNICEF is providing extensive support to the school, including learning materials, school furniture and tents, along with support for Jordanian teachers provided by the Ministry of Education and Syrian refugees who work as classroom assistants.
Psychosocial, WASH and health support provided
UNICEF supports 18 Child Friendly Spaces, which provide a safe space for children to play and learn, and where distressed children can receive additional support. Two of the spaces are for youth. Many of the children visit Child Friendly Spaces when they are not in class.
UNICEF provides more than 1 million litres of water per day, along with 425 fixed showers, 425 latrines and 85 water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) centres. Some 6,100 children at the camp from 6 months to 15 years old have received vaccinations as part of a measles, polio and vitamin A supplementation campaign.
Mr. Lake toured other parts of the camp, visiting a Child Friendly Space, a vaccination clinic and WASH facilities.
“Seeing, in the child friendly spaces, kids swinging, kids running around with makeup on their faces pretending to be clowns – all of those things are wonderful to see anytime, but it’s such a sign that they are recovering from the terrible traumas that a number of them told me about as they escaped to come to the camp,” he said.
Humanitarian response beyond Za’atari
Mr. Lake also met UNICEF partners, along with representatives of other United Nations agencies who are contributing to the humanitarian response.
During his three-day visit to Jordan, he was briefed by staff working in Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic about UNICEF’s humanitarian response and scale-up plans. While 2.5 million people are affected by the conflict inside the Syrian Arab Republic, more than 300,000 are registered as refugees or are awaiting registration in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Mr. Lake also met His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein and Her Majesty Queen Rania, Jordanian Prime Minister Fayez al-Tarawneh and diplomatic representatives.