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Jordan: Schooling and comfort both in short supply

Hedinn Halldorsson, Emergency Communication Manager

What are the chances of bumping into the same child twice, in the space of one year, in a city of 130,000 people? Scant, I’d say. Until I bumped into Ahmed the other day in his hometown: the Za’atari refugee camp. It was dusty and burning hot and I was shooting stills. When I first went to Za’atari, I could easily cover the camp on foot. Today, it would take me hours to go from one end to the other.

The day I met Ahmed was the first day the refugees in the camp had fruit. That is why I remember it so well. Ahmed had an orange in his hand, and insisted I take it. I didn’t, but I took his photo instead. We exchanged a few words. He remembered me too, and last week I took his picture again. And then he disappeared into the crowd, without me finding out if he had friends. How he was coping. If he was going to school.

Kindergartens and CFSs

Currently, there are three schools in Za’atari run by UNICEF and three kindergartens run by Save the Children. We also run around 60 Child Friendly Spaces (CFSs) in the region, benefitting thousands of vulnerable children who don’t have the option of attending school in their host country. In addition, we run a massive back-to-school campaign in refugee camps and host communities in Lebanon and Jordan.

Save the Children Kindergarten in Za'atari refugee camp, Jordan
Save the Children kindergarten in Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan

In Jordan today, there are more than 250,000 school-aged Syrian children and not even one third of them are going to school. Aya, 7, is one of them – or she was.

We sit in Aya’s living room in Irbid, on the day before her first day at school.  “I have never been to school”, she says. Aya was actually not that keen on going. “She’s not the same after she saw her father killed”, her mother tells me. “She panics all the time and doesn’t let me out of her sight”.

The Syrian boy living on the floor below Aya is 14 and has been out of school for more than two years. “I miss my friends. I miss school”, he says. “My mother doesn’t allow me to go out and play here”.

Informal education

When my colleague Rana finds out the 14-year-old hasn’t been to school for more than two years, she immediately signs him up to one of Save the Children’s Youth Friendly Spaces where he’ll meet children his age and get some informal education. “The school bus will pass by your house next week”, Rana says, putting a smile on the boy’s face.

Save the Children tries to reach those children who are not going to school, break their isolation, and have them come to our friendly spaces where they can participate in daily activities and have access to our psychosocial support experts. It is not only the children who may be traumatised by what they’ve seen; their parents are often in a state of shock, unable to care for their children properly or address their emotional needs. We are doing what we can to help.

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