Jordan expands education access for Syrian children

By Mohammed Ghazal in Amman

Syrian students attend school in Jordan's Zaatari camp. A new government decision has expanded access to schools for students without documentation. [Photo courtesy of UNICEF Jordan]

Syrian students attend school in Jordan's Zaatari camp. A new government decision has expanded access to schools for students without documentation. [Photo courtesy of UNICEF Jordan]

In a move that will allow thousands more Syrian children to attend school, the Jordanian government recently cancelled its "security card" requirement.

Public schools in the kingdom previously denied access to the children of Syrian refugees without the government-issued document.

In mid-September, Education Minister Omar al-Razzaz announced that Syrian students without the document will be allowed to register in public schools, but must submit the required documentation within a specified period of time.

The decision aims to ensure that no child is deprived of an education, he said.

These students will be accommodated in the evening shift, he said, so their attendance does not cause overcrowding in classrooms.

'I love to go to school'

Omar, a 13-year-old refugee who arrived with his family from Homs four years ago, has not been attending school as he does not have any official documents.

Finally able to enroll in a public school in Amman's al-Hashemi district, he began attending classes a few days ago.

Omar is one of the tens of thousands of Syrian children who have been deprived of an education because they do not have official documents.

According to international watchdog Human Rights Watch, about 80,000 Syrian children did not receive an education in Jordan last year.

"I love to go to school and I am very happy that I will be going to school after a long break," Omar told Al-Mashareq. "I loved going to my school in Homs back in Syria before we came to Jordan, and I am excited to go to school now."

"We had no choice when we fled the violence in Syria," Omar's mother, Samira, told Al-Mashareq. "We did not bring any documents, we just wanted to escape with our lives."

"We thank Jordan for this step that allows all Syrian children to go to school now, whether they are documented or not," she said.

'A humanitarian decision'

"This is a purely humanitarian decision and an important one to ensure that the future of these children is not lost," said Jordan Teachers Association deputy president Ibrahim Shabana.

"It is not their fault that that they do not have documents, and we must not let the future of an entire generation of children be lost because of t hat," he told Al-Mashareq.

At the same time, he said, it is necessary to expand schools and classrooms so as not to add to the current overcrowding and adversely affect students’ academic performance.

"We want an educated generation and all these children are our children," he added. "We must work to reach all Syrian children and ensure that they attend school and take advantage of this decision."

Additional support required

Donor countries are called upon to "increase their support for countries that host Syrian refugees, including Jordan", said economist Hossam Ayesh.

"This decision will increase the pressure on Jordanian teaching staffs, schools and infrastructure," he told Al-Mashareq, noting that the kingdom is hosting close to 1.3 million Syrian refugees.

There is a need to build schools and increase the number of classrooms, and assistance must be provided to ensure the success of this decision, he said.

Jordan said Tuesday (October 10th) it has cost more than $10 billion to host Syrian refugees since they began arriving in the kingdom in 2011, AFP reported.

In addition to housing, that figure covers additional expenses in the health, education and employment sectors, as well as extra money spent on public services and subsidised food.

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