Five years on: life for Syrian children in Zaatari refugee camp

Zaatari Main
Many children no longer remember life before the camp (United Nations)

Barriers to education, Children in conflicts, Education Cannot Wait, Education in emergencies, Refugees and internally displaced people, Right to education

Home to 80,000 people, almost 21,000 children are in school in the massive camp in northern Jordan.

Five years ago this week, a temporary refugee camp was set up in Jordan to house refugees fleeing from neighbouring Syria.

Now Zaatari camp holds 80,000 people. Half of them are children including 27,000 of school age.

School enrolment rates have steadily risen and almost 21,000 are now attending classes, according to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF. The original tented schools have been replaced by more permanent structures.

As well as school, children and youth at Zaatari can access vocational training, social innovation initiatives, computer skills and sports activities. The Norwegian Refugee Council has seen more than 6000 children in its education centres in the camp.

Some parents and organisations say much more has to be done if all of Zaatari’s children are going to access education – including more trained teachers and better security.

Aya Abu Sitteh – Save the Children’s advocacy manager in Jordan – told the Guardian that some girls had been harassed on the way to and from school.

She said: “This problem has left a lot of parents removing their girls from school and once a girl is out of school she is being at risk of being wed at a young age to ease the financial pressures on her family.” 

Across the whole of Jordan, there are 261,000 Syrian refugees of school age – 170,000 of them in school, according to UNICEF figures released in May.

Last year the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London promised that every Syrian refugee child in neighbouring countries would be in school by the end of the 2016-17 academic year.

There has been progress. But with the school year now over, more than half a million refugee children in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are not yet getting an education.

Theirworld’s #YouPromised campaign has been pushing world leaders to keep their pledge to get every Syrian child in school. 

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