By ANTHEA SPINKS
I recently sent my eldest child off on her first day of school. The weeks leading up to the big day were full of anticipation for both my daughter and the family.
In the weeks that have passed since I have been overcome with a mother’s joy, witnessing my daughter’s delight in the new discoveries she is making every day. But I have also found myself thinking about some of the children I have met in circumstances much different from my own child’s happy transition into primary school.
A few months ago I travelled to Jordan, a country which along with Lebanon has taken in almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn country in the past three years. There in my role as World Vision Australia’s Head of Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs, I met children who would love to be at school, but education in the countries where their families are seeking asylum is for them a luxury.
On Saturday, 15 March it will be three years since conflict erupted in Syria. In that time the violence has claimed more than 100,000 lives – 10,000 of those children – and turned the lives of 22 million Syrians upside down.
We live in a society where we have choice. But for many living in refugee camps or settlements in places like Lebanon and Jordan, school and a stable and accessible education is a distant memory of their once socially cohesive and – for many – middle income past. They too had choices back then.
Now even for those Syrian children lucky enough to access education in a formal or informal setting, they have in many cases already dropped behind. It has been years since some children attended school and some classes are held in a different language making it difficult for them to take part.
In an effort to counter this setback for refugee families and their children, World Vision is running accelerated learning programs in Lebanese schools, for Syrian children to catch up and transition into mainstream classes.
In the lead up to the third anniversary of the Syria crisis, World Vision sat down with 140 refugee children aged between 10 and 17 years old to identify the daily challenges they face as well as hear what their hopes for the future might be. The findings of these conversations have now been compiled into the report, Our Unknown Future.