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■Report on the Syrian Refugee Aid Project (2013/4/8)

Japan Platform Relief Project

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With financial support from Japan Platform, Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi (KnK) launched the Syrian Refugee Aid Project in Jordan on March 8, 2013.

Syrian camp 1
Inside the refugee camp

1. Project Background

Syrian camp 2
KnK local staff member interviewing children at camp

The number of refugees fleeing the persisting civil war in Syria into neighboring Jordan has been dramatically increasing in 2013.  As of the end of March, approximately 450,000 Syrian refugees are now living in Jordan, as announced by the government of Jordan, and another 1.2 million refugees seeking shelter are expected to flow into the country by December this year.
Currently approximately 170,000 refugees are forced to live in tents at Jordan’s largest Zaatari refugee camp, and more than half of them are children at 18 years of age or younger.  Under the unusual living conditions of the refugee camp, youth and children living as refugees are suffering from enormous frustration, which is said to be one of the causes of children’s problematic behaviors, such as small fights.  In order to prevent any more frustration or stress from building up in children or deteriorating their health, opportunities to release their stress or express their feelings are urgently needed.

2. Project Description: Enrichment or Complement to Public Education

At present there are two public schools at the Zaatari refugee camp that offer elementary and secondary school.  At the middle school that opened last November, classes are offered with two shifts; girls class in the morning and boys class in the afternoon in accordance with the Jordanian public school system.  Mathematics, Arabic, English, social studies, science, religion, art, and sports are taught at the school.  However, the insufficient budget for art and sports supplies and equipment makes the classes unable to run properly.  In response to requests from the school, KnK is starting a project to provide the schools in the camp with sports and art supplies and equipment and to offer music, theater, and story-writing classes to complement and enrichment the camp’s public secondary school curriculum.

3. Current Conditions at the Refugee Camp

Syrian camp 3

The Zaatari refugee camp is situated in a wasteland next to an olive field, about an hour’s drive north of the capital city of Amman.  Security in the camp is currently controlled by the Jordanian General Security Department.  About ten officers are stationed to guard Gate #1 and check the IDs and camp permits of the people entering the camp.  The identification of people is also strictly checked at Gate #2.  The roads within the camp are filled with energy with lines of stalls of various kinds, selling vegetables, groceries, and seasonings, as well as kitchen supplies, such as pots and kettles, and daily commodities, including tobacco, blankets, and soap.  At a glance, the residents look extremely peaceful in a seemingly well-established city.

Syrian camp 4

The school that KnK is working for is protected by double fences and security officers at the entrance.  Though pre-fabricated, the school building is very sturdy and well maintained.  Lots of pictures decorate the outer walls of the school.  The classrooms are over-crowded with three to four students squeezed tightly to sit at a two-person desk.  It is obvious that the number of students is rapidly increasing.  To catch up with the growing number of school children, a third school is under construction in the camp.

Syrian camp 5
Syrian children learning at school
Syrian camp 6
In the classroom
Syrian camp 7
Girls going home after morning classes
Syirian camp 8
Pictures decorating the school walls
Syrian camp 9
Boy selling snacks during school hours

According to the report presented by the aid group Norwegian Refugee Council, which manages school enrollment and attendance of children at Zaatari, more than half the school-age children residing at the camp do not go to school.  In fact, during our visit to the camp, we saw a lot of children selling snacks and beverages or playing outside the school building during school hours.  Some opinions have revealed that lessons are mainly learned at the desks and this is not interesting to the students.  KnK is now rushing to coordinate with the Jordanian Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and the schools to implement our project to provide music, sports, theater, art, and story-writing classes to the children at school so that a lot of children will be able to express themselves and release stress. 

We will continue our support activities so that Syrian children living as refugees will be able to learn in a safe environment and enjoy as many activities designed for children as they can.  Your generous support will be greatly appreciated. 

Reported by Yuka Kobayashi, Project Coordinator
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Nonprofit Organization Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi (KnK)
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