Entries marked "Middle East"

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Transitional learning spaces provide safe, resilient learning environments for children living in emergencies

By Carlos Vasquez
Architect, Child Friendly School Designer, UNICEF

NEW YORK, USA, 7 February 2014 – As we publish the 2013 edition of the Compendium of Transitional Learning Spaces (TLS), over 2 million people have fled Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, making this one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history, with no foreseeable end. The refugee population in the region could reach over 4 million by the end of 2014. Children must endure far-reaching hardships and danger to escape and seek refuge across neighboring countries. This disrupts their schooling and moreover, the most vulnerable children are often disproportionally affected.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2013-1330/Noorani
Eager to respond to their teacher, children raise their hands during an Arabic lesson at a UNICEF-supported kindergarten in Homs in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Similar conflicts and natural disasters are affecting local communities and marginalized children in many parts of the world today: escalating violence in the Central African Republic is posing a threat to children, where thousands are being recruited into armed groups instead of going to school; the Arab Spring has disrupted access to education for millions of children; and in areas of the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan, about 90 per cent of school buildings were damaged – more than 3,200 schools in all – leaving over a million pupils and 34,000 teachers with no place for learning.

Less than a month after the Typhoon, I was very happy to hear that the Ministry of Education in the Philippines was using the TLS 2011 to budget, program and plan a back-to-school campaign for the hardest-hit children in Tacloban. The TLS Compendium has helped drive the emergency response and enabled partners to rebound quickly and start designing appropriate and cost-effective learning spaces for children and families impacted by the Typhoon.

There is a critical difference between spending money versus investing in education. In Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which hosts nearly 130,000 Syrian refugees, we convinced donors of the long-term benefits of healthy learning environments in emergencies. A TLS is not a stand-alone structure ‘classroom,’ but a holistic learning environment with a set of facilities, including WASH services, areas for external play, internal learning spaces, teacher and staff space and perimeter fencing. In the Zaatari refugee camp, we designed and built three schools to serve more than 15,000 students in two shifts.

The TLS Compendium is predicated on the principles of Child Friendly Schooling, the minimal components to activate healthy learning environments for children. The profound social benefits of this programming are far-reaching. The second edition of the TLS compendium follows the same initiative of the 2011 edition: collect and centralize technical information, develop basic architectural drawings and provide cost-effective recommendations to improve the quality of these spaces in the context of emergencies.

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Bringing learning to Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

By Miriam Azar

“A child in school is a child protected.” – UNICEF Representative in Lebanon Annamaria Laurini

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In Lebanon, a Syrian-Palestinian refugee girl looks for her path

By Miriam Azar

A Palestinian girl who fled the Syrian conflict with her family tries to adjust to life in a refugee camp in Beirut, but the challenges are many.

BEIRUT, Lebanon, 7 January 2014 – Aya carefully sweeps the floor of the dimly lit room where she, her four siblings and her parents have lived since they arrived in Lebanon from the Syrian Arab Republic.

“I feel pain,” says Aya softly. “My parents are tired and have nothing.”

© UNICEF Video
Aya’s parents say their children have been out of school for two years now. In Lebanon, they can’t afford to send them to school, as the family barely makes enough to pay rent.

Despite her constant worry for her parents, 10-year-olf Aya has managed to keep her spirits. Her natural smile and sparkling eyes brighten up the somber room as if to match the glittery reflections of the sequins on her shirt.

Aya is one of about 51,000 Palestinians who have fled the Syrian Arab Republic into Lebanon, according to figures from November 2013. More than half are sheltering in the 12 already overcrowded and impoverished Palestinian refugee camps, some of which have existed since 1948. Living conditions are extremely difficult: houses are damp and unventilated, streets are narrow, and the sewage systems flood regularly in winter.

Prior to the Syrian conflict, Lebanon, a country of around 4.2 million, hosted some 260,000 registered Palestinian refugees. The influx of Palestinians from Syria has strained the already limited resources, weak infrastructure and overstretched services available in these existing Palestinian camps.

Aya remembers when she used to have her own separate room, which had toys and even a computer. Here in Lebanon, she passes time alone in front of the family’s rented room, bouncing a ball.

Fear remains

“We escaped because we were concerned for our children, mainly the young ones,” Aya’s mother explains. “My youngest daughter started to be afraid of everything – she never used to be like that.”

Even in this urban refugee camp in Beirut, fear prevails.

“I am afraid of many things,” says Aya. “If my dad goes out, I worry about him, or my younger brother.”

Aya and her family feel out of place, although they live among fellow Palestinians.

“There is discrimination against us,” Aya’s father says. “If you are Syrian, you are considered different – even though at core, I am Palestinian, of the same flesh and blood as them.”

Like her father, Aya feels isolated in this unfamiliar, restrictive place.


© UNICEF Video 'I wish I could be in Syria right now,' Aya says.

Back in Syria, she used to enjoy walking around. In Lebanon, Aya struggles to find her way through the labyrinth of the camp, as she dodges drooping electricity wires and puddles of water along the twisting paths.

“I look around and find myself in a different place – I have no idea how I got here,” says Aya.

She lets out a long, heavy sigh: “I don t have any friends here.”

Hope for the future

Aya’s parents are putting their hopes on her for a brighter future – they want her to become a doctor. But she and her siblings have not been to school for two years.

“My son doesn’t even know how to hold a pen,” says Aya’s mother.

Aya misses her teacher in Syria. She misses the flowers, birds, going to their garden, and visiting her friends.

“I wish I could be in Syria right now. Now, now!”

After this interview took place, a UNICEF colleague advised Aya’s parents where to register their children for school. Aya now attends grade 4, and her brother attends grade 1 at UNRWA schools in the Palestinian camp.

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No lost generation – we must act now

NEW YORK, United States of America, 7 January 2013 – As the Syrian crisis rages on, approaching its fourth year, an entire generation of children is being shaped by violence, displacement and a persistent lack of opportunity – and could be lost forever, with profound long-term consequences for the Syrian Arab Republic, the region and beyond.

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Government and UNICEF provide support and training for Syrian teachers in Turkey’s refugee camps

By Tulay Guler

© UNICEF/PFPG2013P-0075
A school in Nizip refugee camp in Turkey. Through an ongoing initiative, Syrian educators living in refugee camps across the country are receiving support, including training on teaching children affected by conflict.

ADANA, Turkey, 8 November 2013 – When Muhammed Ismael, 41, first arrived in Turkey from Edlib, in the Syrian Arab Republic, he did not want just to sit idle. After settling in the Altinozu camp in Hatay, the father of six decided to put his skills and experience as an English language teacher in service to children who, like him, are living as refugees.

He now works as a volunteer teacher in the camp, and he sees his role as more than educational: “As a teacher, it’s very important to be attentive to your students,” he says. “Teachers displaying positive attitudes and instilling hope in children will greatly help them to overcome this hardship with minimum damage and grow up as healthier individuals.”

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Emergency school supplies promote learning amid an education crisis, in the Syrian Arab Republic

© UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2013/Halabi Children at a primary school in Rural Damascus governorate are among more than 400,000 who have received backpacks and learning supplies as part of a UNICEF-supported Back to Learning campaign. The aim is to reach one million children.

By Tomoya Sonoda and David Youngmeyer

An ongoing Back to Learning campaign in the Syrian Arab Republic has reached more than 400,000 children, including Muhammad and Shaza – but much more help is needed.

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic and AMMAN, Jordan, 1 November 2013 – A Back to Learning campaign in the Syrian Arab Republic has reached more than 400,000 conflict-affected children with school bags and education supplies.

Although the campaign has had much success and is ongoing, “[S]ecurity and communication difficulties continue to hamper access and limit the distribution of school supplies in some areas,” says UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic Representative Youssouf Abdel-Jelil.

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