“In Babel, everything was burned down, even our house."
"When we saw our house go up in flames we fled to the street and saw everyone running in panic. We ran with them amidst sounds of bullets not knowing where we were running to,” said 13-year-old Asma, an Iraqi refugee in Jordan.
Asma’s account of the Iraq war is a familiar story to Iraqi students in Jordan. The refugee children can’t forget the sight of abandoned cities and villages they left behind. The war in Iraq has left thousands of displaced Iraqis in Jordan living in miserable conditions. Displacement also takes its toll, forcing many to miss years of schooling or to attend school only intermittently or drop out entirely while they provide an income for their families.
Partnering with four family centers (read about two of them) in Jordan, Anera is working with Asma and other Iraqi refugee students to improve their academic performance by providing free after-school courses in English, Arabic, mathematics and computer-use.
How Anera is helping
Anera has organized education programs in three impoverished neighborhoods in Jordan with a generous grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM). The work was made possible after Jordan’s government lifted a Ministry of Education restriction on education to students without a residency permit. It also exempted Iraqi refugees from paying school fees.
Our goal is to help integrate Iraqi immigrant students, aged 12 – 18, into the Jordanian educational system and support educational opportunities for low-income Jordanian students. Anera also provides a daily nutritious meal and health care services to help them become more focused and productive. A daily allowance covers transportation costs. Students also receive brand new backpacks and a monthly supply of school stationary.
Earlier this year, Anera met with Iraqi parents and staff from various schools to explain the program and encourage them to enroll children with school problems. Before launching the educational program, Anera conducted a six-day teacher training workshop that included lectures, discussions and games about communicating with students, time management, and creative teaching methods and techniques. The program works with both Jordanian and Iraqi students. Iraqi students must hold a UNHCR asylum-seeker card and a school certificate that indicates a less than satisfactory academic overall grade in order to register for the program.
The participating community-based centers monitor progress with the aid of up-to-date student files that outline their background, grades, health history, the family’s economic situation and notes about each student’s psychological status, problems, and development.
Thirteen-year-old Asma bravely retells her and her family’s painful experience with the Iraq war and their immigration to Jordan. Asma fled her burning house during an air raid and witnessed her cousin being murdered and her neighbor buried under the rubble of her house.
Asma’s memories weighted heavily on her but now she is proud of her progress in Anera’s program. “Whenever I closed my eyes I saw our dead neighbor. But not anymore,” she says with a faint smile. “Now I finally feel safe.”
Like her Iraqi classmates, Asma is determined to shape her own future and Anera is there to help.