Finn Church Aid to support children’s education in Syria

Finn Church Aid (FCA) is launching a project to support basic education and remedial classes for over 2,000 children in Syria. The situation of refugee youth on the Greek islands is also alarming, as they are currently being ignored. As much as 80% of refugee children travelling alone disappear after reaching the continent.

FCA supports the basic education and remedial classes of 2,200 children in Syria. Most of them are girls. The majority of beneficiaries live in the Dara’an region, where the Syrian war began in 2011. Other supported schools are located in Al Hasakeh, Aleppo and the Damascus surroundings.

Especially children and youth have suffered from the Syrian war, which has now lasted five years, because they have been out of school for extended periods due to bombings and security threats.

“An estimated 2.1 to 2.4 million children and youth still living in Syria won’t still be able to return to school this year. Thousands of Syrian children will grow up without spending a day in school. And these children are expected to one day build a new Syria”, says Olli Pitkänen, FCA Regional Programme Manager for the Middle East.

According to the UN, the number of Syrian children in need of immediate humanitarian assistance may be as high as six million. Securing education, providing child protection and offering psychosocial support are of particular importance.

“Children and young people are hopeless and live in isolation. They are in an extremely vulnerable position. Under such circumstances, education offers a feeling of stability. It gives you confidence and offers a chance for a radically different future”, says Minna Peltola, FCA Senior Thematic Adviser on Education.

Since 2012, FCA has organised education and recreational activities to thousands of Syrian youth in Jordan.

In Greece, the situation of refugee youth is critical – many disappear after reaching the continent

In February 2016, FCA conducted a needs assessment with Norwegian Church Aid and the Swedish Church in Athens and on the Greek islands, mapping out specifically the needs of refugee children and youth. Since autumn 2015, Finn Church Aid has been assisting refugees in Hungary, Serbia and Greece.

Women, children and young people constitute the majority of refugees currently arriving on the Greek islands. The young people in particular are in a fragile position. For example, child-friendly spaces are organised, to some extent, but no youth spaces are available. Protection of young girls should be managed much better, since they might have to share emergency housing with men. Minors travelling alone are also often kept in police detention facilities where boys and girls share the same rooms. Later, these young people are transferred to guest houses on the continent, where, according to FCA’s study, eight out of ten disappear or leave illegally, which makes them particularly vulnerable. Most will never be heard from again.

Giving psychosocial support to the youth is problematic too, because relief workers and volunteers might not share a common language with the refugees. They might show support to the smaller children by holding them in their arms, but don’t have ways of similarly supporting older children and youth.

Tuesday 15 March 2016 is the fifth year anniversary of the Syrian war, which began as repression of the Arab spring civil uprising, and has since ballooned into a complicated international conflict. The war has claimed 250,000 lives; over one million people have been injured. The conflict has created 6.5 million internal refugees within Syria, and 4.8 million Syrians have fled the country resulting in the worst refugee crisis in the world.

Further information:
Olli Pitkänen, FCA Regional Programme Manager for the Middle East, tel. +358 40 729 22 85. In Finland from Mon. 14 March to Sat. 19 March 2016.
Minna Peltola, FCA Senior Thematic Adviser on Education, tel. +358 40 739 56 12.
Eriikka Käyhkö, Information Officer, tel. +358 40 631 97 32.

Watch a video of our work with children and young people in Syria: