Getting Syrian Refugee Students to School Safely
Syrian children — some 35,000 daily — get to school on buses operated by IOM in Turkey, Jordan and Iraq
Seven years of war in Syria has not deterred Ameena from being fully involved in her children’s education. The mother of four and her husband Abu Hamzeh fled their hometown of Homs for the safety of Jordan’s Azraq Refugee Camp.
Located in central Jordan, the camp lies on a desert flatland where conditions are harsh year-round. Prior to the introduction of an IOM-UNICEF school bus service in 2016, children as young as six had to walk up to two kilometres each way. Older siblings would typically accompany their younger brother or sister, but this often meant that they had to make the commute twice a day, as girls go to school in the morning and boys in the afternoon. Ultimately, this discouraged parents from sending their children to school.
The school bus project relies on volunteer escorts, which includes the parents of some of the school-kids. They are responsible for ensuring that children ride the bus safely and also keep an attendance record.
While in haven from the conflict which has ravaged her country, Ameena is one of the 66 bus escorts responsible for seeing more than 9,000 Syrian children living in Azraq camp arrive safely at school.
“People in the camp, our neighbours and friends, support the initiative of school bus transportation. They are more disposed to sending the kids to school, because they feel that they are safe,” Ameena said proudly. “Not to mention that the kids are much more excited to go to school by bus!”
The 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.
The volunteer bus escorts are selected based on the regulatory procedures in place for cash-based assistance to give beneficiaries equal and transparent access to such opportunities. Cash for work has the potential to confer greater dignity to people and more accurately meet their specific needs.
IOM is currently implementing similar projects across the region, where over five million Syrians have sought refuge.
For second grader Alaa, living five kilometres away from her school, IOM’s school bus project in Turkey is the difference between getting an education or not. Since her arrival in the southern city of Adana five years ago, Alaa and her family have been living in the pasta factory where her father works. If Alaa’s father were to send his kids to school by public transportation, it would cost him half his month’s salary.
In 2018, IOM Turkey is planning to provide school bus services to some 20,000 Syrian refugee children living across seven provinces every day.
Syrian refugees in southern Turkey live in urban areas where Turkish and Syrian kids play side-by-side every day. Syrian kids like 12-year-old Mahmoud and 13-year-old Amjad have many Turkish friends and desperately want to become fluent in Turkish to break any language barrier between them.
“Out of the 2.5 million Syrian refugee children living in Syria’s neighbouring countries, 43 per cent are out-of-school.”
Unaware of IOM’s bus programme, Mahmood spent his first few years in Turkey not in school but working with his brother at a bakery. Amjad is from the besieged town of Deir ez-Zor, where airdrops were until recently the only means of delivering aid. He also was unable to attend school in Turkey until the start of the IOM school transportation service.
Out of the 2.5 million Syrian refugee children living in Syria’s five neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, 43 per cent are out-of-school.
IOM’s school transportation services are also available in the summer for children taking catch-up and Turkish language classes. Nearly 7,000 Syrian boys and girls went to summer school by an IOM bus in 2017.
At the request of the Ministry of Education, IOM has expanded its transportation services to Syrian teachers attending Turkish language courses, who would otherwise have to spend a crippling amount of their salary on public transportation.
IOM’s 2018 education programme for Syrian refugees in Turkey also includes the rehabilitation of a hundred classrooms attended by 7,500 Syrian and Turkish children.
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.
Despite some areas in Syria witnessing a reduction in violence, over 13 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance, including 6.1 million internally displaced people.
Nearly 3 million men, women and children are living in hard-to-reach and/or besieged areas with only sporadic access to humanitarian assistance.
Read our appeal here.
This story was posted by Kamyar Kompani, Media & Communication Division IOM HQ.