Most kids in the Middle East are busy getting into the swing of a new school year right now - a fresh year of possibilities ahead to make new friends, learn new things, and dream about their futures.
But for Syrian refugee children, this time reminds them of what they've lost: the homes they left behind, their schools, and their friends - who might be alive or dead. They are reminded of the life they used to live - the normal life of a normal kid going to a normal school - without a war!
Many Syrian children of war have been out of school for years - as the conflict drags on. Families have struggled just to try to stay alive - as they cross borders, move from town to town looking for safety, and try to find enough to eat. In most cases, getting their children into school is out of reach of many, if not most, families. Refugees that do finally get settled into refugee camps or host communities face equally complicated sets of obstacles in getting their children back into education.
Children and youth who have been out of school for long periods of time are unable to enroll in public school in Jordan. And for those who can go back to school, classrooms are often over-crowded - sometimes with 70 students and one teacher who is not prepared for children with traumatic background experiences. And differences in curriculum in Jordan make it harder for Syrian refugees to adapt and succeed.
For young persons living through a war, school is often their only link to normality. School provides structure, routine, and a community to help share their burdens. When that link doesn't exist, they lose two chances: one for a hopeful future and another one for a peaceful present.
The alternative education program of Questscope is often the only chance refugee youth have to return to a normal place for learning. Teacher-facilitators are trained to work with children who have been through trauma and to reach out to them as a friend and mentor. The program is designed for flexibility to the needs and aspirations of refugees and marginalized youth. We understand that they first need a place to feel safe and to be understood before they can begin to learn.
Our children are going back to school this fall. There are others who will not - and who desperately want to. Let's remember the young people who want this chance for an education, and strive to support them so that they can have it.
Media and Communications, Questscope