UNICEF: Funding gap in Jordan risks education of 200,000 Syrian children

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UNICEF is committed to enabling all children on Jordan’s soil to access education and learning, but both the Jordanian government and the UN agency do not have enough financial support from the international community, UNICEF Representative to Jordan Robert Jenkins said.

Jenkins told The Jordan Times in a recent interview that UNICEF has been working in the Kingdom for more than 50 years, long before the Syrian crisis and “we are and will be partnering with Jordan for Syrian refugees.”

“We are committed to supporting all children in the country,” Jenkins stressed.

UNICEF has managed to contribute $31.8 million of its aid appeal of $46 million under the Jordan Response Plan for this year.

The Ministry of Education also has a $27 million gap in funds needed to continue providing education until next June for the 143,000 Syrian children who are enrolled in public schools.

However, the financial gap, if not addressed for both the ministry and UNICEF, will affect the future of more than 200,000 Syrian children in Jordan, with 77,000 of them currently out of school.

In addition to the 143,000 Syrian children who attend school, UNICEF, in cooperation with the local community, has established Makani (my space) centres that provide informal education for refugees in Jordan. 

Currently there are 152 Makani centres across the Kingdom, including in refugee camps, and the target is to reach 220 centres by the end of this year.

Makani is a comprehensive approach through which UNICEF provides life skills training, non-formal education and protection services for vulnerable children. 

So while these children cannot access the school system, UNICEF works with the ministry to provide them with other forms of learning.

“Over time, we would like to see all children [enrolled] in the formal school system, but in order for all children to be learning and have access to school, the school system has to expand and because of how quickly the refugee population is expanding, it takes time, requires infrastructure support, hiring teachers and a significant amount of resources,” Jenkins explained.

However, the funding shortfall remains an issue.

“Currently, there are not sufficient resources from the international community and the government of Jordan is fulfilling a global public good by providing services to Syrians,” the UNICEF official said, adding that the crisis is a global one and the Kingdom’s generosity is unparalleled.

He stressed that the international community needs to do more for education and other sectors in order for Syrian children in Jordan to realise their right to education.

“So, there is a financial constraint and the global community has to do more,” Jenkins added 

The financial gap, not only affects the education programme, as there is a funding shortfall in all other UNICEF programmes, including health and sanitation, “which we continue to fund raise for”.

“We are optimistic that we will be able to raise additional resources because of the importance of addressing the very vulnerable kids for the future growth of a country and the region as a whole,” Jenkins noted, adding that when Syrians go back home, they need the skills to rebuild their country and the global community should recognize that.

By Khetam Malkawi

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