Jordan set to open school doors to Syrian refugee children

With the help of international funding, Jordan has promised to make room for all refugee children in its schools by adding more afternoon shifts and hiring thousands of teachers.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

A Jordanian teacher talks to Syrian refugee students at a school in Amman, Jordan, September 1, 2016.

Jordan appears all set to put all refugee children present in the country into its schools from this week.

Boosted by international funding, the kingdom has promised to make room for these children in its schools by adding more afternoon shifts and hiring thousands of teachers.

More than 90,000 Syrian refugee children in Jordan weren't able to attend school last year, along with hundreds of thousands in neighbouring host countries.

The situation prompted warnings of a "lost generation" as a result of Syria's five-year-long civil war.

A Syrian refugee family brings their children to school in Amman, Jordan, September 1, 2016.

Intissar Ghozlan's two youngest boys haven't been in school since the family fled from Syria to Jordan two years ago.

There's no space in local classrooms, and the boys, 12 and 14, can "barely write their names," having forgotten most of what they learned back home, she says.

For many children, this could be their last chance, said Robert Jenkins, the Jordan representative of UNICEF, the UN children's agency.

"At a certain point, it becomes next to impossible for a child to realize its potential, if they have been out of school that long," he said.

The back-to-school program "not only will have a great impact on individual children, but on the population as a whole and on Jordan as a whole and on the future potential rebuilding of Syria," he said.

A Syrian refugee father brings his daughters to school in Amman, Jordan, September 1, 2016.

The promise of education for all is part of a broader deal made earlier this year at a watershed conference on Syria aid in London.

Jordan pledged to give refugees access to legal work and education, as a way of keeping them in the region and discouraging them from migrating to Europe.

In return, donor countries promised hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, concessional financing and trade benefits to pay for the refugee burden and boost Jordan's struggling economy.

Yet the aid is slow to trickle in.

Jordan's education minister, Mohammed Thnaibat, said he needs about $1 billion over three years to educate refugee children and ease current overcrowding.

The money would pay for doubling the number of schools with second shifts to 200, building 500 more classrooms, hiring 5,000 teachers and building 300 new schools.

Jordan received about $80 million so far for this year, enough to open schools to all, but not enough for keeping the program going for the entire year, he said.

TRTWorld, AP