The United Nations launches campaign to bring Syrian refugee children back to school
In another joint initiative to support Syrian refugees in Iraq and improve the general educational scheme for children in camps, the United Nations agencies launched a new campaign to encourage Syrian children to enroll in schools so they can avoid the forced educational disruption.
On 13 November 2013, UNICEF, UNHCR and UNESCO joined efforts to organize the launching ceremony of the “Back to School” campaign in Erbil with the attendance of around 500 children from Syrian refugee and local communities, Minister of Education of the Kurdistan Regional Government Dr. Assmat Muhamad and representatives from the three UN agencies.
The launching ceremony featured several activities, including presentation of awards to winners of a recent drawing competition in which 250 Iraqi and Syrian students and out-of-school children participated. Drawings will be featured on billboards across Erbil.
The UN agencies, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education of the Kurdistan Region, are striving to provide a safe and protective learning environment for Syrian refugees in camps. The humanitarian actors, with support from donors, are prioritizing refurbishing and rehabilitation of existing basic and schools to support refugees in host communities and urban locations.
"As the new school year starts, and as part of the Back to School Campaign, new opportunities for Syrian refugee children and youth to get back to school are being made available. UNESCO believes that education not only plays an essential role in building normalcy and stability in the lives of the Syrian refugees, it is also one of the few concrete ways to work towards social and future professional integration for the refugee youth," stated Ms. Louise Haxthausen, Director of UNESCO Office in Iraq.
Most Syrian children and youth arrived in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq at a time in 2012-13 when the academic year had already progressed. As a result most have not enrolled in school. However, recognizing the educational needs of Syrian children, the Kurdistan Regional Government has requested all schools in the Kurdistan Region to register Syrian refugee children and youth at any time during the academic year. A lack of space in Arabic schools is another obstacle to enrollment of Syrian school age refugees, and the UN and its partners are working on expanding educational facilities.
“Syrian refugee children must not become a lost generation. The Back to School Campaign can demonstrate that equitable access to education is possible and bridge the equity gap emerging between Syrian children in camps who can go to school and those in the communities that might not have this opportunity,” said UNICEF Representative Marzio Babille.
According to refugee families residing in the Kurdistan Region, the distance to school as well as the uncertainty about their future is common reason for lack of enrollment of Syrian children in schools in this region. The assessment of needs of Syrian children was done by UN Volunteers and local youth who volunteered to help addressing need of education for Syrian refugees.
“Other major challenges and concerns include lack of Arabic schools for basic education in non-camp locations and for secondary schools both in camps and non-camp locations. Shortage of teachers for Arabic language as well as teachers who can teach other subjects in Arabic is also a challenge. Poor economic status hinders refugee children, especially those in non-camp locations, from accessing education as it entails transportation, uniforms and stationery costs which their parents cannot afford,” said Claire Bourgeois, UNHCR Representative in Iraq.
There are approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, about half of them children. It’s estimated that about 77 per cent of school-aged children are not enrolled, a figure that is a subject of concern for the different stakeholders active in the field of Education. This campaign is yet another initiative launched by the UN agencies in collaboration with the Kurdistan Regional Government and NGOs in the context of emergency interventions to respond to urgent needs of Syrian refugees in Iraq.
Watch a video about this Campaign HERE.
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