As the civil war in Syria continues, refugees require creative solutions to continue their education. More than 2.6 million Syrian children have missed out on three or more years of school, according to UNICEF.
Al Salam School in Reyhanli, a city in southern Turkey, hosts almost 2,000 Syrian refugees. The school was founded in 2012 by Hazar al-Mahayni, a 63-year-old pharmacist from Montreal. She worked with private donors, a Canadian school, and an American aid group to provide the $50,000 a month that the school needs to function while also continuing her career full-time. She noted the importance of helping to develop the minds of refugees:
The future of Syria will come from these children.
Gym classes, computer labs, and language lessons are among the familiar offerings at the school. Students learn Turkish to help them get along in their new home as well as English and Arabic.
Al-Mahayni said that the school is working hard to help refugee students catch up:
We had a lot of students who missed one or two years from their academic years. So we try in summer to give them the chance to pass a full year in three months.
The school day is divided into five shifts beginning at 6 in the morning so that more students have a chance to attend, reports Deborah Amos of NPR.
Al-Mahayni said that she’s able to keep tabs on the school from afar:
I’m with them via Skype when they open and when they close even though I’m not there personally. They know I will listen and follow up.
The school enrolls 1,800 students, but the waiting list continues to grow as private schools in the area close down after displaced families become unable to afford the costs.
Another school was created by Fouad Sheikh Asana, who worked as a teacher and school inspector in Aleppo, reports Marc Champion of Guelph Mercury. In 2012 he fled to Kilis and started an open-air school in the town’s central park, which ended up attracting 1,200 Syrian students. Until recently, the refugees couldn’t register for work papers, meaning that Syrian children couldn’t go to school in Turkey.
Asana said that they aren’t looking for permanent residence:
We don’t want to settle; we want to go home. But until we do, we need to live.
His school has a strict apolitical policy and doesn’t affiliate itself with any political agenda or religion, only taking donations from sponsors who do not try to control what is taught.
Asana feels that Europe is the next step for Syrian students:
We are a big number for Turkey to handle, so I think the best thing is for Europe to take some of these people. There should be visas for our young people who want to complete their studies. Then they will be able to come back to Syria when it’s safe again and rebuild it. They will bring back European thought, qualifications, culture, and ideas.
In Jordan, a group of architects will be making durable schools for refugees out of local materials and using it as an opportunity to provide refugees with work, writes Heather Dockray of Good Magazine. Cameron Sinclair, Pouya Khazaeli, and the Pilosio Building Peace Organization have collaborated on the project, entitled RE:BUILD.