Share and raise awareness on #ChildrenofSyria
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By Chris Niles

ERBIL, Iraq, 12 November 2013— Jwana, 11, is in fifth grade. Her name means ‘beautiful’ and she intends to become an art and music teacher.

“I like to draw flowers and houses and girls playing,” she says. “Also, I like to sing. I love to learn songs.” 

Jwana, who fled conflict in Syria eight months ago, is one of tens of thousands of Syrian children making new lives in Kurdistan. But she doesn’t live in a refugee camp. She and her family share a home in Erbil with another family. Altogether there are 15 people in the house.

Jwana’s cousin Peygham, 11, has been in Iraq for two months and she, unlike Jwana, is not enrolled in school.

“I passed the 6th grade and then we came here,” she said. “Here no one has taken me to school registration.”

Peygham’s story is more common than Jwana’s. The vast majority of the approximately 100,000 Syrian refugee children in northern Iraq have not enrolled in school.

A campaign by UNICEF and its sister agencies UNHCR and UNESCO, along with the Kurdistan Regional Government, aims to change that.

The campaign launches on November 13 in Shandar Park in Erbil. The launch is being attended by local dignitaries as well as more than 500 Syrian and Iraqi children—including those who are not in school.

Jwana’s story exemplifies some of the challenges facing Syrian children. Because there’s no bus, she and her cousins walk 15 minutes to school every day.

When she gets to school, the classrooms are crowded, and she has problems understanding what’s being said. Syrian Kurdish has not only a different accent from Iraqi Kurdish, it also uses a different alphabet.

“We had an exam and the exam wasn’t explained to us,” Jwana said.

UNICEF and partners are working with UN Volunteers to assess needs and increase registration and enrollment in school, as well as refurbishing classrooms and training teachers.

The campaign’s aim is to ensure that every child like Peygham can take her place, like her cousin, Jwana, in the classroom and receive an education that will ensure their future.

“Children should study well,” Jwana says.

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Children at Baba Sheikh School in Erbil, northern Iraq draw pictures as part of the Back to School Campaign, which will be launched on November 13. The campaign aims to get refugee children who live in host communities to register and enroll in school.
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