2014-12-17 15:57:00

Caritas Jordan: child refugees need schools

(Vatican Radio) “I think that people all over the world… need to be really aware of what is happening to the Iraqi and Syrian refugees and to listen to their stories,” says Dana Shahin, communications officer at Caritas headquarters in Amman, Jordan.  She spoke with Vatican Radio about the initiatives Caritas is taking in order to aid the ever growing number of refugees in Jordan who have fled the conflicts tearing their own countries apart. Education for the tens of thousands of refugee children, she says, is increasingly urgent and resources scarce.

Iraqi Christians arriving by the hundreds

Earlier this year, Caritas Jordan received the approval of the Jordanian government to receive Iraqi Christian refugees fleeing persecution by Islamic extremists in Mosul and the Ninevah Plains.  They have partnered with Christian churches across Jordan to provide them with shelter, converting parish halls and activity centres into makeshift lodgings.   For those refugees who have found lodgings to rent but have difficulty meeting their bills, Caritas helps them pay the monthly fee. Caritas Jordan provides these refugees “with the means to continue living,” Shahin explains.

However, the number of Christian refugees from Iraq has now reached more than 5,000, with reports of some 100-120 new arrivals in Jordan every day, making it difficult for Caritas to sustain its relief efforts. Of particular concern to Shahin and to Caritas Jordan is the large number of children that comprise the population of refugees. “To this date around 750 kids aged between 5-18 [are in Caritas refugee centers]… and don’t go to school,” Shahin points out.

Catholic schools open to refugees

Parochial schools are among the many institutions in Jordan that have made room for Iraqi and Syrian children to enrol.  At the Latin school in the northern town of Zarqa, teachers remain after the Jordanian kids go home, and teach refugee children in the afternoons.  Caritas helps pay their afternoon salaries.

But with the increasing number of children, schools are running out of space and lack the funding to continue to accommodate more.

Caritas Jordan and the Ministry of Education have met to address the problem and are working on strategies to permit greater access to education for the children of refugees. It is important, Shahin says, “to provide these kids with [access to] education as soon as possible.”

She urges the international community to “contribute in whatever possible way [they can]…in order to protect the future [particularly] of the kids of the refugees…We do not want these children to become a generation lost to war and indifference.” 

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