By McKayla Skinner
My grandmothers were deeply impacted by the world wars. One was left without a father for a time, as he was a prisoner of war, and the other was a military wife who sometimes lived on the brink of starvation during a famine. Though both lived in different countries, each was impacted by war, a loss of security, and separation from family. Yet through education and opportunity, these women settled in a new land, raised healthy families, obtained employment, and a life full of promise. The world we live in is increasingly turbulent, and families are being uprooted and displaced. In fact, 11 million Syrian refugees have been forced to flee their homes. Similarly, they hope for opportunities and education, but many have barriers to cross.
Unfortunately, many displaced Syrian refugees have been denied education and opportunities. Many countries that have taken in Syrian refugees have not enabled them to settle and have restricted them from opportunities for education and employment. For example, families are being deterred from education by not being able to afford the thirty-three dollars per month, per child required to transport and purchase books to keep their children in school. While some have resorted to putting only one child in at a time, many have ended up not being able to afford it financially and have opted to educate their children at home instead. This means that they still must cover the cost of basic materials, which are hard to obtain.
So why is education so important for these displaced refugees? First, it gives them immediate stability, enabling them to settle and work in a temporary homeland. Second, for young refugees pursuing education, there is the desire to rebuild their homeland, and education will enable them to return to and preserve their culture. Third, it gives the youngest of the refugees a daily norm, which is a way to overcome the traumatic experiences associated with war.
Considering the importance of education for refugees, there are different avenues to meet these needs. The first is the grassroots effort. For example, in an area where some refugees have fled to, a man—working with donors on Facebook to help gather books— opened a library that gives access to English materials that refugees can use for free. One donor sympathized with children suffering from war: “I am not a doctor; I cannot prescribe pills or therapy. I can send books because some contain ideas of hope or share narratives of the struggles in life. It’s a way to tell a kid that in no way are you alone.” Another avenue to meet the educational needs is through international effort. One example is a province in Argentina that has opened their arms wide to refugees, “paying for flights… from Syria, housing, jobs, healthcare, psychological assistance and Spanish lessons.” Both are examples of how others are assisting, in various ways, to increase education and opportunity for Syrian refugees.
Much like my grandmothers, these Syrian refugees can emerge from crisis with new opportunity; opportunity that is best made available through education, which can enable them to rebuild their lives, homeland, and culture.
*Syrian boy studying in Lebanon: attribution to https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfid/15556570453