@USAID Video: Just Bring a Chair

In today’s video, USAID shares a message of hope amidst the horrors experienced by 2.4 million Syrian refugee children.  Along with displacement from home, Syrian children experience an interruption in education from which they might never recover.  Ms. Maha, a principal for a girls’ school in Jordan, answered the desperate pleas of Syrian parents as she welcomes us and their children into her school with the sentiment: “Just Bring a Chair.”

Video Description:

“In Jordan, where the Syrian crisis has led to around 635,000 additional people taxing already overburdened schools, hospitals and social services, some people still find reasons to open their arms and make it work. Ms. Maha is one of those people.”

Without access to education, the future is bleak for many of the youngest Syrian refugees.  A recent report by Human Rights’ Watch found that nearly one-third of refugees in Jordan are between the ages of 5 and 17.  Of these children, 56% are not enrolled in school.  Lebanon is also struggling to accommodate the inundation of refugee students.  Soon, school-aged Syrian children could outnumber their Lebanese peers.

Unfortunately, the problems do not end once children are in school.  A report by UNICEF highlights the unique educational concerns of refugee children, citing violence while traveling to and from school, abusive teachers and classmates, and separation anxiety while at school.  The same report finds that even when the school is located within the refugee camp, 75% of children do not attend.

So what’s the solution?  I think an inclusive environment like Ms. Maha creates in her school is key.  Money for teachers, educational materials, and space are paramount for educating this generation of Syrian youth.  2015 saw fundraising efforts by members of the UN fall short of the $8.4 billion goal.  Will 2016 see more Syrian children returning to classrooms?

Read Ms. Maha’s story here.

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