Syria in Review : A Report on The Country’s Education

By Rasha Alkalla

“The Lost Generation “

There are millions of children currently
homeless in the world because of armed conflict, violence and war, and
their plight has been highlighted on World Refugee Day.
These children often hold the title of “Lost Generation”, they face the
risk of losing the simplest of happiness and quiet childhood, such as
“Education is the best thing in life, A large number of Syrian refugee
children still do not have access to education despite the efforts of
Governments and United Nations agencies.

*The Education Challenge
During interviews and focus group discussions in Lebanon, 66% of  a pool of
80 children questioned about education said, they did not go to school. If
the situation does not improve significantly, Syria may risk eventually
reaching a generation that has received a poor degree of education.
In the face of this, UNICEF led the development of strategy entitled
“An Unwasted Generation”. The strategy aims to improve children’s
access to quality education and strengthen the protection environment
for children. It also seeks to expand national absorptive capacity and
access to education and protection for host communities, both within
Syria and in neighboring countries, by linking humanitarian and
development responses. Given the pressure on public school systems,
the strategy also aims to significantly expand formal education in
traditional locations, as well as non-formal education.

*The Scope of the problem
United Nations agencies, working in support of the Ministry of
Education, aim to increase the number of Syrians enrolled in public
schools more than threefold by the end of 2013, but even if this goal is
achieved, approximately 200,000 Syrian children may remain without

*Long absences from school
The crisis in Syria, the journey into exile and the transition to a new life
have led to the loss of months and years of schooling for many
Syrian refugee children. Some have lost the incentive to start anew,
especially if this would involve a low school enrolment rate. A Syrian
assistant teacher at Zaatari Camp said he feared that many of the
children in Jordan might have ‘lost the spirit of education.’
In Jordan, no child who has been absent from school for more than
three years is entitled to formal education.

*In-school treatment
For many refugee children, school is a safe place where they can
learn new things and make friends. School helps them regain part of
their natural life and set goals for the future. Parents and children have
talked about teachers ‘ strong support and kindness and giving them
extra attention and assistance to Syrian students
Some fathers also reported that teachers abused children verbally and
physically. Many children in Lebanon said that their teachers beat them
in the classroom and they told us bad words.

*Unable to cover costs
UNHCR and UNICEF cover expenses for all Syrians, as well as a
small number of vulnerable children and Lebanese returnees. UNICEF
and UNHCR are also providing school uniforms, books, bags and
stationery to Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and Jordan, as
permitted by the scope of the resources.

*Means of transportation and distance
There are additional problems facing children who can find a place at
school. Discussions with parents and children indicate that
transportation is a major constraint, with distance and safety
considerations causing a large number of children to remain without
Innovative programs to help children reach school safely. In Mafraq,
Jordan, Syrian fathers in three schools set up a special  drop-off
systems. Over the past school year, 100 children have benefited from the
system in schools.

*Children with disabilities
The exclusion of children with physical, mental and intellectual
disabilities from public schools in Jordan and Lebanon, including Syrian
refugees, is a serious issue, despite the existence of policies to promote
their integration. A recent evaluation of 120 refugees in Lebanon; half
of them with disabilities and other caregivers did not refer to any child
attending school or other educational activities. Only a few of these
handicapped children went to school in Syria. recent reports from
Jordan’s Za’atari camp indicate that children with disabilities do not
attend school in general.
Claire Cathernet, an integration advisor at Help Age and Handicap
International in Lebanon, says some children have severe
disabilities and may need specialized services, but many children with
sensory, intellectual, mental or physical disabilities can and should be
integrated into public schools.

* Encouraging school attendance

“Seize this opportunity, it’s your chance! What is the most important

Back-to-school campaigns in the two countries encouraged children
to enroll in schools, and parents got to know the stages of the enrolment and its
process. In Jordan, Syrian and Jordanian Volunteers assisted UNICEF  to
save children by reaching more than 20,000 children in Za’atari
camp and 60,000 children in host communities. In Lebanon, UNHCR,
UNICEF and their partners supported an extensive community outreach
campaign, including the preparation and distribution of posters and
leaflets that clearly explain the steps of enrolment.
We all have a responsibility to protect children of Syria, to tell
their stories and to raise awareness about their plight until they can
return home.

“There is no honest expression about the spirit of society more than
the way it treats its children.”
~ Nelson Mandela ~