Ameena is a bus escort volunteer in the Azraq camp, Jordan. Photo | Amanda Nero/IOM
Ameena is a bus escort volunteer in the Azraq camp, Jordan. Photo | Amanda Nero/IOM

In refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey, having transportation to and from school can often determine whether thousands of Syrian refugee children will have the chance to get an education. The IOM and UNICEF are offering school bus services in Jordan to provide greater security and more opportunities for young Syrians.

In the Jordanian refugee camp of Azraq, children used to have to walk up to two kilometers to be able to go to school. This often led to parents deciding to stop sending their children to lessons. Two years ago, the International Organization for Migration and UNICEF launched a school bus service, making it possible for children to travel safely and attend lessons on a regular basis.

School buses for security

The project is run by volunteers, including the parents like Ameena, who fled her native city of Homs in Syria with her husband Abu Hamzeh and four children. Ameena is one of the 66 bus escorts responsible for ensuring that more than 9,000 Syrian children living in the Azraq refugee camp arrive safely at school. ''People in the camp, our neighbors and friends, support the initiative of school bus transportation. They are more disposed to sending the kids to school, because they feel that they are safe,'' the IOM quoted Ameena as saying. "Not to mention that the kids are much more excited to go to school by bus!''

The project, which is aligned with the No Lost Generation initiative committed to supporting Syrian children affected by the conflict, also provides special assistance to kids living with disabilities. The IOM is implementing similar projects throughout the region, where over 5 million Syrians have taken refuge.

The project in Turkey

In 2018, the IOM is planning to provide school buses to about 20,000 Syrian child refugees living in seven provinces in the country. The organization reports that of the 2.5 million Syrian child refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, 43% do not attend school. The IOM notes that ''For second-grader Alaa, living five kilometers away from her school, IOM's school bus project in Turkey is the difference between getting an education or not.

Since her arrival in the southern city of Adana five years ago, Alaa and her family have been living in the pasta factory where her father works. If Alaa's father were to send his kids to school by public transportation, it would cost him half his month's salary.''

IOM transportation services are available in summer as well for children taking language and remedial classes. Almost 700 young Syrians attended school over the summer in 2017 thanks to the IOM buses. On the request of the Turkish interior ministry, IOM has extended its transportation services to Syrian teachers as well who are attending Turkish language courses and who would otherwise have to spend a large portion of their salaries just to pay for public transport.


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