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UNICEF Jordan continues to integrate refugee children in education system

Syrian refugee children are seen in a UNICEF-supported class
Syrian refugee children are seen in a UNICEF-supported class environment in 2019. (Photo: UNICEF)
AMMAN — As 40 percent of Jordan’s population are under the age of 18, and the country has the second highest share of refugees per capita in the world, Jordan looks to UNICEF for support in protecting its most vulnerable children, especially with the pandemic exacerbating underlying challenges.اضافة اعلان

“The more that we can provide access to opportunities for those children, the more likely they are to become self-sufficient and be active contributors to the society in the country,” said UNICEF representative in Jordan Tanya Chapuisat in an interview with Jordan News.

Among the major pillars this organization addresses is education.

The Kingdom works to integrate refugee children, regardless of their nationality, into the education system, explained Chapuisat. The current COVID situation, however, has limited their access to schooling, especially for those in more vulnerable communities.

“The government has set up an online education system, but we found that in many cases the most vulnerable children were not accessing that system,” said Chapuisat. “Trying to make sure that they were given not only things like tablets, but data packages so that they can access that online system was critical.”

Currently 45,000 children in refugee camps are provided with free monthly data to bridge this digital divide, according to UNICEF.

Learning Bridges is a program the Ministry of Education and UNICEF have adopted to help students recover from the covid-induced disruption. “This is a parent, teacher and student support system that supplements the whole online system of the ministry,” explained Chapuisat.

 “Over the last few years, we have had more than 33,000 children in the camps who have been accessing education as a result of our direct support.”

Yet, Chapuisat believes that there is still a lot of support needed to ensure refugee and vulnerable children do not fall behind. Over time, the lack of access creates a learning gap which may eventually contribute to higher dropout rates. This would have a devastating impact not only on the communities but on the country.

“You can directly calculate the loss of future earnings in the country as time continues to go on from a lack of access to education or access to learning,” she added.

The learning gaps and Covid crisis also helped exacerbate preexisting challenges faced by the refugee population, early marriage and child labor.

“UNICEF has been working with different community-based organizations to really try and support families to not make that harmful choice for their children,” said Chapuisat. 

Partnering with national NGOs and government institution provides them with access to the vulnerable communities both inside and outside the camps. Women groups have been particularly vulnerable throughout this period and have been targets to UNICEF’s emergency programs.

It takes time, however, for tangible results and behavior change to be noticed. “When it comes to issues of like child labor, or child marriage, the results are there, but they're longer term,” said Chapuisat. “It's very much about trying to help families make the different choices, and those are driven by their economic situation.”

To encourage economic self-sufficiency and increase access to opportunities, UNICEF also invests in youth empowerment.

According to the organization, over 2,000 young people,51 percent of whom are females, were provided with technical and vocational training and supported with access to meaningful employment.

“We worked on including youth in programs on social innovation and business startup initiatives,” said Chapuisat, including one that provides vulnerable youth with entrepreneurship training followed by an opportunity to launch an enterprise.

UNICEF adopts the policy of supporting all vulnerable communities, with the end goal of integrating them into society and progressing the nation as a whole. “The history of the country shows how people coming here can take on a very significant role and contribute to the national economy,” said Chapuisat.

“They are within our communities; they are our neighbors and so making sure that they are integrated into the fabric of society is critical for long term harmony in the country.”

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