Arah (right) and Saba (left), Syrian refugees living in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, wear their new winter uniforms at Rubar School in Erbil.

Innovative Education Tools for Children Fleeing Conflict

The UNICEF USA Bridge Fund accelerates self-learning programs for Syrian children.

The Syrian civil war has provoked the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. An estimated 400,000 people have died, and more than 5.4 million have fled the country, including nearly 3 million children. And the conflict continues. As Fran Equiza, UNICEF’s Syria Representative, explains: “In the first month of this year, nearly 60 children were reportedly killed across Syria. Many more have been injured in the ongoing fighting.”

The country’s civil war also means more than 5 million Syrian refugee children need education assistance, including nearly 2.5 million deprived of school in Syria and surrounding countries.

But UNICEF is committed to ensuring that all children have access to education — no matter who they are or where they live. Last year, for example, UNICEF enabled more than 3.2 million Syrian children to gain access to formal education in Syria and surrounding regions. But, for many forced from home, traditional classrooms aren’t an option. That’s why UNICEF helped design an innovative self-learning program (SLP) — offered via Educate A Child (EAC), an initiative of the Education Above All Foundation — that enables children to continue (or restart) their education.

In September 2017, the Education Above All Foundation, through its EAC initiative, awarded UNICEF a three-year grant to reach 95,000 of Syria’s most vulnerable and marginalized children — children who have sought refuge in Jordan, Turkey, and Damascus, Syria’s capitol. The three-year program will create 300 learning spaces, identify and train teachers and other resource personnel, deliver school support kits (including school bags, stationery, and other supplies), and provide desperately needed psychosocial support. Since 2012, UNICEF has been partnering with EAC to help provide access to quality primary education for 10 million children around the globe whose schooling has been thwarted by poverty, discrimination, armed conflict, emergencies, and climate change. 

Designed for supervision by adults without teacher training, UNICEF’s SLP provides workbooks and other tools for first to ninth graders to study English, math, science, Arabic, and other topics. Most importantly, the SLP helps ensure that, when children regain access to formal schooling, they won’t have fallen behind their peers and can participate in national exams. The total SLP project budget is $21 million, with $10.5 million granted by EAC and a UNICEF USA $10.5 million match.

The Bridge Fund has accelerated $3.7 million for EAC commitments in three separate transactions, including prior accelerations that helped enable UNICEF to create safe learning spaces with school supplies for Syrian children by the school year’s start. During the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2018, the Bridge Fund provided a $2.5 million acceleration so that UNICEF can immediately begin procuring the SLP kits, as well as recruiting and training teachers and securing partnerships for full program implementation. 

Francesco Calcagno, an Education Specialist for UNICEF's Middle East and North Africa Regional Office, makes the impact of the Bridge Fund's accelerated funding clear: "The Bridge Fund’s $2.5 million acceleration was critical to helping us jump-start self-learning programs for 95,000 Syrian children deprived of school."

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Top Photo:  Arah (right) and Saba (left), Syrian refugees living in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, wear their new winter uniforms at Rubar School in Erbil. ©UNICEF/UN047862/Anmar