Supporting children in Syria to return to school

Published: 2 October 2013 12:43 CET

By Leena Reikko, IFRC

The girl looks at the table, her eyes wide with surprise. When she realizes what she’s looking at, a smile lights up her face. She is standing in a gloomy hall at an old school in the neighbourhood of Zahira in Damascus.

“The timing is perfect. I am finally able to start school today and I didn’t have a schoolbag yet,” says 12-year-old Wisam, opening her bright orange rucksack. It contains everything she needs for school: crayons, pens, drawing and exercise books – and a football.

The Netherlands Red Cross has donated 2,464 school kits to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and they have just reached Syria. Most of the items will be distributed outside the capital, but the first batch were delivered by the Red Crescent to the children in two shelters for internally displaced people.

Wisam’s favorite subject at school is Arabic and her dream is to be a doctor. The past year has been difficult; the ongoing crisis has forced her, her parents and her four siblings to flee twice already. Each time, her education has been disrupted.

The story of a disrupted education is a common one, but parents in Syria know the value of education for their children’s future, even if it does mean going back to school in the most difficult of circumstances.

Mousa, who is 8 years old, does not hesitate when asked what his favourite thing is in the school kit: “The football, of course!”. But he is also happy to receive the more educational items and he takes school seriously, especially now that he is able to attend again after a year out because of the conflict.

“I should be in the second class, but last year I could not go to school at all because of the situation, so I am in the first class.” Mousa and his friends get help blowing up the brand new footballs and then it is off to the yard and play.

For families now living as refugees in neighbouring countries, the situation is perhaps even more challenging, as they have language barriers and dwindling resources to overcome. Many children are simply unable to continue their learning.

The IFRC has an emergency appeal for Syria for 53 million Swiss francs. It also has two more emergency appeals to support refugees from Syria: one for refugees in Turkey, and another appeal for refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Find out more about the Syria crisis and the IFRC's emergency appeals.