IRBID, Jordan, 2 May 2013 – Eleven-year-old Hanin proudly arranges her artwork on the living room floor. Her drawings of brightly coloured flowers reflect happier times. Report by Toby Fricker
UNICEF’s Toby Fricker brings you the story of 11-year-old Hanin, who was displaced from her home in the Syrian Arab Republic and is now living in Jordan. Being able to continue her education provides her with hope in this unsettling time.
“I like to draw things that happened in Syria because I can let out what is in my heart,” she says. “I enjoy it because it reminds me of home.”
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan
Hanin and her family left their house in the southern town of Deraa, Syrian Arab Republic, 14 months ago, when the war reached their doorstep. They ended up in an apartment in Jordan’s bustling city of Irbid, just south of the Syrian border.
Their story is a familiar one. Some 450,000 Syrians have taken refuge in Jordan. Seventy-five per cent of them are staying in urban communities.
Access to education
Being able to continue to study is key to the futures of children like Hanin. The Ministry of Education, with support from UNICEF and funding from the European Union and Germany, is providing free schooling.
In areas in which Syrian families are concentrated, Jordanian schools run double shifts to accommodate the massive numbers of Syrian children desperate to continue their education. UNICEF is supporting the schooling of over 31,000 Syrian children in host communities, when, in fact, 100,000 need to be in school.
“Syrian children have, as any other child in the world, the right to education,” says Deputy Representative for UNICEF Jordan Michele Servadei. “They have suffered profound distress. For many of them, being back at school, it’s a sign of hope.”
Hanin’s father, Amar Abazeed, emphasizes how important continuing school is for his daughter and three sons. “The most important thing is for them to finish their education,” he says. “Some of the children have been out of school for a year or two.
“If they continue without education, the new generation will be illiterate.”
Volunteers reach Syrian communities
For Syrian families who have lived through conflict and displacement, arriving in a foreign town can be overwhelming. Finding out about services on offer is one of the many challenges.
A network of volunteers set up by Save the Children Jordan, working with UNICEF, travel from door to door in towns across the country to reach out to Syrian families and help register children for school. Information about health, child protection and other refugee services is also passed on.
Raweeya Al Masaeed, one of the volunteers, is motivated by the support she and the other volunteers have been able to provide. “When we connect the families with the school,” she says, “just seeing the outcome and results of how good it is encourages me to come the next day and do more work.”
The volunteers include both Jordanians and Syrians, who often provide inside knowledge as to where families are living. In one month, volunteers successfully registered 1,000 children at schools in Irbid.
Expanding coverage relies on funding
In urban communities across Jordan, many Syrian children are still looking for a way into the overcrowded education system – and more and more children are arriving by the day. But, providing space, teachers, books and facilities is expensive business.
“Funding for us – it’s a big challenge,” says Mr. Servadei. “Education costs, the government is already overstretched, so UNICEF is already covering for Syrians in public schools.
“It’s about receiving the funding in time to expand the operation,” he adds.
At her temporary school, Hanin can at least still focus on her dream and the future. “When I grow up, I want to be an artist – because that is my hobby,” she says.
“When I go back to Syria, I hope to go back to my friends, my school, my home and everything to be the way it was.”