The Right to Education Sacrificed in the Name of Power, War
As a teacher in South Africa, it’s very tempting to navel gaze because of the woes facing education in this country. My temptation is always curbed when I read stories about other teachers who are teaching in the midst of political turmoil in conflict-ridden countries. Like a refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan for example. When a country is faced with geopolitical conflict, the stories of the people who suffer the most often don’t make breaking news; their stories become the footnote in the larger discourse of war and militarisation. When we read about Syria we know about the sanctions, the influence of the Arab Spring and the “rebel” groups and military’s role in violent operations.
.. Mohammed, who works at a refugee camp in Jordan called Zaatari. There are schools in this camp supported by various international bodies. He works for two well-known schools that support almost 20 000 children whose families fled from the unrest in Syria. His experience highlights the tensions that arise in the efforts of trying to a resume life in the context of a refugee camp. There are cultural tensions because all the children in Zaatari are Syrians but the teachers are Jordanian.
Schools in refugee camps are highly reliant on humanitarian aid but this has decreased over the recent years. The Education for All Global Monitoring Report shows that in 2012, education accounted for just 1.4% of humanitarian aid, down from 2.2% in 2009 therefore “education suffers from a double disadvantage, not only receiving a small share overall, but also receiving the smallest proportion of the amount requested of any sector”.
…in Mohammed’s camp he posits that there are “50 000 children in the camp in total. Half of them are school aged children and 20 000 are currently registered with a school”. These children are in safe spaces where they can learn despite the displacement and trauma they have suffered before arriving at Zaatari. But this isn’t without its challenges. According to Mohammed: “Some of the children are still scared of school because they saw their schools being destroyed because of bombing and think the schools are like those in Syria. Some of them don’t come because they think they are not certified in Jordan but this is not true, they can all come. Some refuse to take the Jordanian curriculum and want their own Syrian curriculum. Sometimes some students don’t come to school because it’s very far away from their tent or caravan and are afraid to be targeted by the bad boys in the street.”