(Amman) – Jordan should address policies that restrict Syrian refugee children’s access to school to meet ambitious goals of increased enrollment when the 2016-2017 school year begins in September, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. More than one-third of school-aged Syrian children registered with the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan – over 80,000 out of 226,000 children – were not in formal education during the last school year.
The 97-page report, “We’re Afraid For Their Future": Barriers to Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Jordan,” describes Jordan’s generous efforts to enroll Syrian children in its public school system, which was struggling with capacity and quality issues even before refugees began to arrive from Syria. But Human Rights Watch also documented barriers to education, including asylum seeker registration requirements that many Syrians cannot meet; punishments for refugees working without permits that contribute to poverty, child labor, and school dropouts; and a bar on enrollment for children who have been out of school for three or more years. Jordan has eased some restrictions, but authorities should expand efforts to realize the fundamental right to education for all Syrian children, Human Rights Watch said.
“Jordan has taken difficult, noteworthy steps to get Syrian refugee children in school, but many who fled the horror of Syria’s war are still missing out on an education and the future it offers,” said Bill Van Esveld, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Donors who are stepping up support urgently need to work with Jordan to remove policy barriers that are keeping children and youth out of school.”
Since 2011, Jordan has opened schools in refugee camps and instituted “double shifts” to create more spaces for Syrian children. A donor-funded plan would add spaces and new programs for up to 75,000 more children in the 2016-2017 school year.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 105 refugees in host communities and refugee camps, reviewed government policies and findings of the UN and other groups, met teachers and administrators, and visited schools.
Of the roughly 650,000 Syrians registered as asylum seekers with the UN refugee agency in Jordan, around 520,000 have left the refugee camps to live in host communities, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Syrians described harsh conditions in the camps, including schools without electricity, running water, heating, or windows. Jordan requires Syrian refugees in host communities to present “service cards,” issued by the Interior Ministry, to enroll in public schools. But refugees who left camps informally after July 2014, without a Jordanian relative over 35 years old as a guarantor, are ineligible for the cards. While the number of these cases is unknown, it is likely in the tens of thousands.