“We used to go to school in Syria, but not here.”
I’ve been the Communications and Advocacy Officer for Save the Children in Egypt for a little over a year now. I work in the field a lot; taking pictures and documenting our work.
The best thing about my job is that it’s extremely rewarding. It’s always great to see families and children benefiting from Save the Children’s services and projects.
I thought my job in Egypt was fulfilling, but there’s nothing as rewarding as helping people in need during an emergency. And definitely nothing that tugs at your heartstrings as much.
Two weeks ago I was sent to Jordan to help the team there respond to the large number of displaced Syrians arriving in the country. These people have lost their homes and livelihoods because of the ongoing violence in Syria.
Throughout my two weeks here I’ve met a lot of different families who’ve lost their homes and are hoping to find a safe haven. All kinds of Syrians are making their way into Jordan; families from the countryside and cities, from Damascus and Homs, and from a range of backgrounds.
But one thing they all have in common is a big wish to return once it’s safe.
Jordanians have, on the whole, been very welcoming in the border towns of Ramtha and Mafraq where most Syrians are arriving, but the pressure on these towns is driving local prices up.
This makes living conditions more difficult for Syrians who are trying to settle down but have come with little or no money at all. All of these factors are causing tension between Syrians and Jordanians.
Eager for school
This tension is now also becoming apparent in schools. I’ve met Syrian parents who are afraid to send their children to schools here in Jordan because they’re afraid that their children will be or have been bullied.
Miyada, mother of Asaad, 10, and Ali, 13, has been in Jordan for five months now and still refuses to send her children to school.
“We’ve been offered to enrol them in school, but I was scared, I didn’t want problems to arise between my children and other Jordanian children,” said Miyada.
But I’ve also heard the eagerness in children’s voices about returning to school. Syrian children are excited to go because it provides routine and a sense of normality to children’s lives – something Syrian children so desperately need right now.
“We used to go to school in Syria, but not here. But we’d really love too,” exclaimed Ali.
Education can’t wait
The sad reality is that most Syrian refugee children aren’t going to school. There are various reasons for this, including their parents’ fear of sending send them, that they can’t afford the school fees, and because they want to wait until they return to Syria.
Most of these children have already missed a good portion of the school year, and with so much on their minds it’s understandable that the danger of missing so much school isn’t always top priority.
But education can’t wait. Children’s right to a decent education is as basic as their right to food and water. And that’s why education is a key part of Save the Children’s emergency response, along with health, nutrition, and protection.
I’m proud to be working for an organisation that stresses the importance of education. In addition to providing a safe space for both children and parents to express their ideas and opinions freely, Save the Children is helping enrol Syrian children in Jordanian schools.
It’s good to know there are organisations out there (like us) catering to the educational needs of children and Syrians at risk.
This blog was written by Ahmed El Mezeny, Communication and Advocacy Officer for Save the Children in Egypt.