Dreaming of their Potential

Syrian children talk about their futures on the way to school in Jordan

A child rides to school on an IOM-run bus in Azrap Camp, Jordan. Photo: IOM 2017

Abdallah, Future Footballer

Abdallah on his way home from school in Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan. Photo: Laura Sisniega Crespo/IOM 2018

In Jordan’s Azraq Camp where over 45,000 Syrian refugees are seeking shelter from the conflict across the border, 14-year-old Abdallah is finishing the 8th grade at a school run by the Ministry of Education.

Unlike some young teenagers, Abdallah likes going to school. He enjoys the way Jordanian teachers deliver their lessons and knows that the information he learns during class could be vital to his future.

His favorite subject is technology but he does not want to be a scientist or engineer when he grows up. In fact, Abdallah dreams of becoming a professional football player. He idolizes Cristiano Ronaldo — seeing him as a role model, even though he supports Ronaldo’s rivals Barcelona FC. After school, Abdallah usually gets to show off his skills playing against his friends.

Every day, before he can meet his friends for a few games of kick-about, he takes a bus run by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, and funded by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) back to his family’s shelter. Abdallah lives far from the school but the bus saves him having to walk the long-distance home. This leaves him with enough time to get all his homework done and play football before bed.

Abdallah is not the only one in his family who takes the IOM-run buses to and from school — he has two younger brothers. “The school bus helps my youngest brother a lot,” says Abdallah. “Small children used to have a hard time walking to school in the morning.”

Dunia, Future Journalist

Dunia on her way to school. Photo: Laura Sisniega Crespo/IOM 2018

Dunia, a year ahead of Abdallah, is finishing up the 9th grade. The 16-year-old fled Homs, Syria, with her family in 2014 — they have been living in Azrah Camp ever since.

Starkly aware of the importance of a proper education, Dunia particularly enjoys her Arabic classes as she sees the language as the root of her culture.

Like Abdallah, she does not live close to the school but also like Abdallah, she takes the school buses operated through the IOM-UNICEF partnership.

“Instead of arriving to the school tired, I am fresh and I can focus more on the lessons. And I don’t have to walk all the way from home, as a girl it can be a bit scarier walking alone in the early morning,” says Dunia. School not only gives Dunia a chance to learn but also to feel safe and have fun with her friends.

“I would like to become a war correspondent to be able to understand what is the real problem behind conflict. I will then share the truth with the people and travel to different places to find out more about the world,” says Dunia.

After school, she attends extracurricular classes at centres in the camps where she recently completed a training on Excel and another one on ICDL, the world’s leading computer skills certification.

“I love technology. Who can live in this society without knowing how to use computers?” she added.

Helping Syrian Refugees Make it to School

Syrian children on board the IOM bus in Azraq Camp. Photo: IOM 2017

In Azrah Camp, IOM helps more than 6,500 children get to school each day. Before the introduction of the IOM-UNICEF school bus service in 2016, children as young as six had to walk up to two kilometres each way.

The school bus project relies on volunteer escorts, mostly parents of the school-kids, and beneficiaries of the cash-for-work program in the camp. They are responsible for ensuring that children ride the bus safely, while keeping an attendance record, and at the same time they obtain a monthly income that helps then build their resilience. The bus service has helped increase school attendance in the camp and reduce protection risks.

IOM is currently implementing similar projects across the region, where over five million Syrians have sought refuge. Syrian children — some 35,000 daily — get to school on buses operated by IOM in Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.

The school transportation project, which is aligned with the No Lost Generation initiative committed to supporting Syrian children affected by the conflict, also provides special assistance to kids living with disabilities. Escorts are trained in techniques to help children with disabilities; buses are adapted to those students’ needs.

IOM is appealing for USD 10 million to facilitate access to education for over 35,000 Syrian children living in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. This is part of IOM’s 2018 USD 194 million appeal for Syria and the five neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

Access IOM’s 2018 appeal here.

This story was posted by IOM’s team in Jordan. To contact them, please email: