Kiwi-funded programme gets Syrian kids an education

More than five million Syrian refugees - half of them children - have fled the fighting in their home country spilling into neighbouring countries like Jordan.

The influx of refugees puts huge strain on the host countries, but a Kiwi-funded initiative is ensuring Syrian children are able to go to school - for now, at least. 

Omar, Muhammad and Hayyan fled Syria with their families eight years ago. Now they live in Jordan, and thanks to Kiwis fundraising through the 40 Hour Famine, they're able to get an education.

"We love the school," 13-year-old Omar says. "The thing we love most is the teachers."

The boys' fathers say they left Syria after the government crackdown began in 2011. First there was unrest, then bombings, then people started going missing.

Omar's grandfather simply disappeared.

At Prince Mohammad Boys School in Zarqa, they find a little normality.

The day is run in two shifts to accommodate the influx of refugees. The Syrians attend separate classes, and they like it that way. As guests in a host country, they're often targeted by bullies.

Two young Jordanian students recognise that as racism.

"There are some people who call Syrians 'homeless' and they have fights with them," Amir says.

"It happens a lot and we tell them to stop," Saif says.

At just 11 years old, Amir has an inspiring message.

"They are our guests, we need to support them and help them make friends and cope so they can live in Jordan properly."

Despite the bullying, Omar, Muhammad and Hayyan still like going to school - they say it's "perfect".

World Vision funded five schools in Jordan in 2018. This year there are only four, and right now there is no funding at all for 2020. A feeling that the war in Syria is coming to an end, as well as donor fatigue, means funding for children's projects is drying up.

World Vision Director Grant Bayldon says many of the children are traumatised and this programme gives them a chance to build their confidence again. He hopes it can continue.

"Right now we're facing the prospect of an absolutely massive cut in funding for programmes within Jordan for Syrian refugees," he says. "Cuts of millions and millions of dollars. What that will mean could be absolutely devastating in terms of the services."

World Vision is asking supporters and the New Zealand public to help keep programmes like the schools going.

Omar, Muhammad and Hayyan's fathers told me returning to Syria, for now, is not an option.

Like so many things in the young boys' lives, the prospect of going home or even getting an education is ruled by uncertainty and the whims of others.


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