Many Iraqi Refugee Children are Still Out of School

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 30, 2008 1 min read
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The Baltimore Sun has published an investigative series of articles and videos about the conditions for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, and the United States. (Hat tip to ImmigrationProf Blog.)

By some estimates, according to the article, four out of five of the Iraqi refugee children living in Jordan and Syria are still not attending school. See my reporting on this issue in “The Lost Years,” published by Education Week in March.

Here’s an excerpt from a Dec. 28 article, “No Place to Go,” in the series that reports on Iraqi refugees living in a suburb of Damascus, Syria:

The longer their exile continues, the more officials worry about the next generation. Back on Iraqi Street, 13-year-old Ussam al-Sharraf ladles steaming bowls of kuba—fried lamb dumplings served in a tomato broth—for customers at the al-Baracka. Out of school for four years, Ussam is delighted to spend his days helping his father, the owner of the storefront restaurant. His father, none of whose eight children are in school, sees childhoods lost. "Of course I worry about their future without education, but I don't know what to do," says Nabil Hassom, 60. "I can't afford to send them to school. I need them to help me in the restaurant." Dulayme, himself a college graduate, echoes Hassom's concerns. "After my son and daughter left school, something of my life was broken," he says. "A human being without education is like an animal."

American schools are receiving some of these unschooled children, as displacement from the war for many of these refugees drags on. The Sun series says that the United States has accepted about 23,000 Iraqi refugees over the last two years. That’s out of an estimated 2 million Iraqis who have left their homeland since the war began in March 2003.

The Center for Applied Linguistics published this month a “refugee backgrounder” about Iraqi refugees, which provides a lot of historical and cultural information. It doesn’t have much information, however, on the status of schooling in Iraq, nor does it say anything about the amount of schooling that children displaced to Jordan or Syria have received.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.