Ever since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) has closely monitored the growing refugee crisis in the region. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ninette Kelley, “It’s the largest humanarian tragedy of our time.” As The Guardian reports, the conflict has resulted in 9 million refugees with over 3 million escaping into bordering Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
The refugee crisis has severely impacted the role of education in Syria. In the pre-war country, nearly every child had access to education, whereas now enrollment has dropped to 50%, according to a report published by the Save the Children organization. In major cities like Aleppo, enrollment is only at a mere 6%. At least a quarter of educational facilities within Syria have sustained damage, some being transformed for military purposes or used as a means of shelter by displaced families.
In the aftermath of this dire refugee situation, ZF has specifically addressed the issue of education. ZF responded with several initiatives to fill the void of educational facilities for refugee youth focusing on providing education not only for intellectual growth, but for psychological well-being, livelihood, and development. Many of these operations have been centered in Gaziantep, a relatively stable border town in Turkey, to serve those seeking refuge from the turmoil in Syria.
The establishment of the first school in Gaziantep was a collaborative effort with the Turkish Ministry of Education and Syrian Ministry of Education. Since then, another 32 Turkish schools have opened their doors to Syrian children. ZF is supporting the education of 5,800 Syrian refugee children in Gaziantep, also providing teacher salaries, school supplies, and uniforms for students.
ZF’s efforts towards supporting education for Syrian children has caught the attention of the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Mr. John R. Bass. Mr. Bass visited the ZF-sponsored schools in Gaziantep earlier this summer with his wife, U.S. diplomat Holly Holzer Bass, and applauded the charitable efforts of ZF. The visit was covered by Syrian news outlet Halab Today and Mr. Bass provided his thoughts about ZF’s efforts in a blog post on the U.S. Department of State Official Blog.
ZF has provided distributions of school supplies to various educational facilities in Gaziantep to serve nearly 3,000 students in Turkey – and another 1,500 inside Syria. Aside from a full-time support program, ZF also contributes to the salary of over 60 teachers. These materials were hugely popular with the children to such an extent that there was a high demand to have similar materials for the following semesters, a request which ZF accommodated.
ZF is sponsoring education for not only the Syrian refugees in Gaziantep, but also those displaced from their homes who are still within Syria. In 2015, ZF provided support to the academic needs of 729 students in Qah refugee school in Idlib, Syria. The purpose of this project is not only to establish a rigorous daily academic program, but also create after-school programs that offer alternatives for children from their unfortunate reality. Another aspect is these schools also seek to provide psychological counseling, intervention, and treatment to students and families alike. And the efforts are far from over as ZF has been working with the Syrian Education Board to build another four schools within Syria.
The current humanitarian crisis has created a “lost generation” of Syrian youth displaced by the carnage of the war who may need support for years to come. Please join ZF in being a part of the solution by generously contributing to improve the lives of Syrian refugee children through education.