UNHCR hails decision to let Iraqi children attend school in Jordan
AMMAN, Jordan, August 20 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency on Monday praised the Jordanian government's decision to allow tens of thousands of Iraqi children to enrol in local schools. The Jordanian Ministry of Education said at least 50,000 Iraqi students were expected to sign up at schools across the country.
The new academic year began on Sunday and the Iraqis will have until September 15 to enrol in schools. Iraqi children will follow the same curricula as Jordanian students and will have access to the same school facilities. Depending on needs, the programme will include primary, secondary and vocational training as well as non-formal education, where applicable.
Jordan hosts an estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees. Most have fled violence in their country since 2003 and about half are believed to be children, who have not been able to gain access to education in Jordan unless their parents had a residency permit or paid fees.
"This courageous gesture by the Jordanian government will have to be strongly supported by the international community. It deserves wide recognition," said Peter Janssen, UNHCR's acting representative in Jordan. "It will help many Iraqis give some meaning to a very difficult and, at times, hopeless situation."
UNHCR and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) are committed to providing technical assistance and financial support to help the Jordanian government expand and strengthen the private and public education sectors. Some people have expressed fears that a wave of new pupils could overburden the system.
The sister agencies last month launched a US$129 million joint appeal to support host governments such as Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon in providing schooling for 155,000 young Iraqi refugees during the 2007-08 school year. More than 2 million Iraqis have fled to nearby countries - primarily Jordan and Syria. About 500,000 of them are of school age and most currently have limited or no access to education.
UNHCR assistance to Jordan's education sector will focus on the expansion of educational infrastructure, reintegration of school dropouts through community mobilization - particularly for girls and adolescents - and support for poor and vulnerable families.