By Jess Wright
Amman, Jordan, February 2014 – Like many teenagers in Jordan, Ghada is nervously awaiting her exam results. “The exams were very hard. They consisted of multiple choice questions on many different areas. I hope I did well.” The 18-year-old from Syria took the first round of her final year Tawjihi exams in January; nine subjects including Maths, English, Arabic and History. “The English and Maths exams were the hardest,” she says.
But unlike other teenagers, Ghada studied for her exams in a cramped caravan she shares with her mother and eight siblings, at the Za’atari refugee camp, near Amman. “It’s really hard for us all to sleep in one room. It was challenging during my exams and I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t get time to study on my own,” she adds.
Nevertheless, Ghada is optimistic about her future: “I really love school; my friends are there, I love the teachers, I love everything about it. My dream is to be an excellent Arabic teacher. Back in Syria I had the most amazing teacher, and she inspired me to be one. So I want to achieve this dream and go back and thank her.”
Ghada’s family, originally from Rif, outside Damascus, came to Za’atari a year ago. Her father, an English teacher, stayed in Syria, and Ghada hasn’t seen him since.
When the shelling started, Ghada couldn’t go to school any more. “We stopped seeing people in the school, and I was scared for my future and my studies. I didn’t know what to do.”
Upon their arrival in Za’atari, the family lived in a tent. Life was hard, but gradually things got better for Ghada. “When we first came here, I thought my life had collapsed; I was very sad. Then day by day we started to get by, meet new people and make friends.” Two months later, with support from the European Union, UNICEF was able to open a school in Za’atari, which Ghada began attending. There are now three schools in the camp, with space for 15,000 children.
Many girls like Ghada stop going to school, because of being behind or because their parents want them to work or to get married. Her classmate Lamia*, 17, almost dropped out after missing a year of school. “I felt like I was lost, but without an education there wouldn’t be a life for me,” she says.
A total of 2.68 million Syrian children are currently out of school in Syria and neighbouring countries; more than 90,000 of these are in Jordan. UNICEF is working with partners across the region to deliver education and vocational training, as well as providing teacher training and learning materials to help children continue their studies.
Along with partners, we’re calling on world leaders to invest in the education of psychological protection of all children affected by the conflict, to help prevent a lost generation.
“If we stopped our education, Syria wouldn’t be built again,” says Ghada. “We need doctors, we need engineers. We need education so we can re-build our home.”