Za’atari Camp, Jordan – Hanan’s face moves only between the textbook on her desk and the teacher at the front of her class. The 18-year old from Dera’a, southern Syria, is focussed.
It’s Hanan’s final school year and she’s studying at one of three UNICEF supported schools in Za’atari refugee camp, northern Jordan. “Education will define my destiny. It will give me the freedom to do what I want in life,” says Hanan.
When she fled Syria with her family two years ago, Hanan thought she would never see the inside of a classroom again. “I felt like my life stopped already and my life was shattered. Everything I planned for was ruined,” she says. But on arrival at Za’atari, Hanan was surprised to find a school and she registered immediately.
Some 15,000 Syrian children attend school regularly in Za’atari now but a further 10,000 are still out of the formal education system. Despite studying for her final year exams, Hanan is also determined to get those out of school back into learning. Walking across the dusty Za’atari streets, she is a key member of the ‘school ambassadors’ programme. A group of children committed to convincing their peers to go back to school.
“I became a school ambassador because I want others to have what I have,” says Hanan. “Once we go home we need people to rebuild Syria, to have jobs, to replace those who died with a new generation of skilled workers,” she adds.
The numbers of children attending school in Za’atari have risen since the camp grew rapidly in size in early 2013. UNICEF is also further scaling up its support to non-formal education to ensure those who missed months and years of school can still access learning opportunities.
“I feel like I’ve done some great work. I feel proud when other children go back to school,” says Hanan. While her life has been turned upside down by the war in Syria, four years on Hanan still holds onto her dream. “I want to continue my studies so I become a journalist. I want to communicate the real truth to people about what is happening,” she smiles.