The big picture is bleak for Syrian refugee children, but the Jordanian government recently took a step to ensure these children’s right to an education.
Jordanian regulations require Syrian children to have a “service card,” issued by the interior ministry, to enroll in school. These cards may be difficult or impossible for Syrian families to obtain, if, for instance, they moved from refugee camps to towns or cities without official permission.
Last week, Jordan’s prime minister, Hani Mulki, announced that public schools would not turn away any child seeking an education, with or without a service card. Jordan’s education minister waived the requirement last year, but it was a temporary measure. Mulki’s decision locked it in as official Jordanian policy.
Most countries require children to have official identification documents to enroll in schools. But for families forced to flee their homes and countries, this can be a bar to education. Through no fault of their own, children may be shut out of classrooms if their parents are not officially registered with the authorities or if they left behind key documents while fleeing.
Jordan has also taken other steps to enroll more Syrian children. With funding from donors like the United States, it established a “catch-up” program to reach out-of-school children. With European Union support, Jordan has granted more work permits to Syrian refugees than any other host country, which should reduce poverty and child labor that prevent children from attending school.
Other countries hosting Syrian refugees should follow Jordan’s lead. Throughout the Middle East the number of Syrian children out of school has increased to around 730,000, according to a recent estimate. In some areas of Turkey, Syrian children are reportedly unable to obtain needed identification cards for schools. Even in Jordan, around 75,000 out of 220,000 Syrian refugee children still weren’t in the public school system last year.
Every day is a tipping point for some Syrian children who, unable to go to school, pass the point of ever going back. Jordan’s waiver of documentation requirements for school enrollment is a glimmer of hope.