At the moment, an estimated 16,000 Syrian refugees live in informal tented settlements in Jordan. The UN believes that around 41% of the children in these camps have never been enrolled in formal schools in Syria or in their new host country, and that only 6% are attending formal schools. This problem is cited as one of the most urgent in relation to children's needs - instead of attending schools, up to 60% of children, especially boys, are sent to work.
Large aid agencies have done incredible work in and outside camps, but frequently name reaching these refugees as one of their main challenges. Educating young Syrian children means increasing their quality of life, giving hope, and preventing radicalisation. Why, then, would we focus on informal schools as opposed to increasing access to formal education?
Let's have a look at one informal tent camp in Mafraq that we have worked with for a while. In this camp in the desert, there are around 40 school-aged children. Of these, only two attend formal schools. When we asked why, their age was stated as the most important factor; only the oldest children are allowed to undertake the long journey to get to a Jordanian school. The adults in the camp do not feel it is safe to send their younger children.
For us, it is important to make sure young children will be prepared to enter formal schooling at an older age. To prevent major gaps in knowledge and skills, we support local initiatives in informal tented settlements, so that children can get the opportunities they deserve. As we expand our efforts in this field, we hope to eventually get the informal schools certified, so that the teachers can get salaries, and the children will not fall behind.