By Hind-Lara Mango
AMMAN, Jordan, 10 September 2007 – The Ikzaz family has been living in Jordan since 2004, when they fled Iraq as a result of ongoing violence there. As refugees, they are sustained only by the goodwill of their neighbour, Um Jum’a. Without her help, the Ikzaz family would have no food, clothes or shelter.
“I can’t work, or I will be deported,” says Iraqi-born Armash Ikzaz, a father of five. “I can’t afford to buy my children school books. We are lucky that they are in school.”
It costs about $70 dollars to enroll each non-Jordanian child in school and an additional $15 dollars to purchase school books. The Ikzaz children received some books through the goodwill of Um Jum’a, who collects money from families to help her Iraqi tenants. Still, the family cannot afford all of them.
“They took the books away from me and told me when I could pay I would have them back,” says Rana, 12.
The children wake up in the early hours of the morning and walk for 45 minutes to reach school. “We dread the coming months when the kids will have to walk to school in the merciless rain and bone-wrenching cold,” says Ms. Jum’a.
Help with textbooks and school fees
Recently, the Government of Jordan agreed to allow displaced Iraqi children to enrol in school here. There are about 750,000 Iraqis in the country, and just under 20,000 of the children attended Jordanian schools last year.
UNICEF and its partners have been supporting the government’s decision and aim to get an additional 50,000 Iraqi children into school this year. UNICEF is currently working with the Ministry of Education on a plan to supply Iraqi children with textbooks and to pay the school fees of children whose families cannot afford to do so.
However, Jordan’s already overcrowded classrooms cannot accommodate a new influx of students. In response, UNICEF is providing the Ministry of Education with technical support in order to help implement double-shift schools and rent additional buildings to accommodate the students. Teachers will also be trained to provide Iraqi children with psychosocial support.
Ikhlas, 13, lost several years of education after fleeing her home in Iraq. “We are happy to be in school,” she says, “but I feel embarrassed in front of the other students because I can’t buy all the books.”
For now, Ikhlas and the rest of her family are waiting patiently, hoping that their plight will improve.
© UNICEF Jordan/2007/ Al-Moughrabi