Azraq Camp: Haya Embarks on her Education Journey

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Five months ago Basma, a mother of seven children left the life she knew in Syria to seek refuge in neighboring Jordan.

Severe shelling had damaged part of her home and killed the children’s grandmother while the family was home one day. Basma’s seven children, and more specifically her youngest daughter Haya, were traumatized by the incident.

“Haya was a big part of the reason why we chose to completely leave the country,” said Basma, “she became terrified of loud noises and was continuously having nightmares even after we came to the camp.”

The family now resides in Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp. Basma’s eldest daughter is still in Syria finishing her university degree in medicine. The family view education with very high importance. Haya only 5 years old has never been to school.

“One of my greatest fears about becoming a refugee was that Haya wouldn’t have the chance to go to school,” shared Basma.

Shortly after arriving to the camp, Basma decided she needed to find work to help her husband support their family. She became a paid volunteer at one of the NGO’s in Azraq camp, and that’s when Basma learned about Save the Children’s kindergarten. She enrolled her daughter at once.

“Haya was always a shy girl, and after the violence and escaping to a new country, her shyness and attachment to me became more apparent. Of course I wanted Haya to start her early education, but what I was hoping for also is for her to become less dependent on me, and learn to be outgoing,” she said.

Save the Children is the only organization providing Early Childhood Education services in Azraq camp. The kindergarten also provides children with a sense of normalcy and community when their lives are disrupted by disasters. Nearly 400 children under the age of five are attending the kindergarten since it opened last month.

Haya has been going to the kindergarten for almost one month now, and already her mother and teachers have seen a great improvement in her wellbeing.

“When Haya first joined she preferred to stay alone, and would only speak if she was spoken to. But soon, she became comfortable with her surroundings at the kindergarten and we noticed that she was making friends and participating during lessons,” shared Haya’s teacher.

Basma has become an active member of the parent committees created at the KG. The parent sessions include awareness raising, learning about child protection approaches, child rights, and discussions of issues the children are facing in the camp.

“I feel I benefitted a lot from the parent sessions, it coordinates between what our child is learning at school and how we as parents can build on that learning at home,” said Basma, “I also apply everything to my older children who don’t attend the kindergarten.”

For Haya, she says what she learned at Save the Children’s kindergarten is the alphabets and how to stay clean and keep her environment clean. 

Her mother shared, “This is mine and Haya’s favorite place in the whole camp. It really makes me happy that my daughter can now hold a pencil and that’s the first step to ensure a good future for her.”

Upon enrolling at the kindergarten, all children receive a school bag filled with stationary and educational material.

“The importance of establishing this kindergarten in Azraq is that it’s the only place providing education in the camp for this age group,” said the headmistress of the kindergarten, “This is a very critical age for the child’s development, and at the kindergarten the child learns to combine playing with learning as well as getting back a sense of the routine they’ve lost to the conflict, and the routine they need to later advance into school.”

Aside from education, the kindergarten provides a safe space for parents to keep their young children, while they tend to their other duties in the camp. Azraq camp now hosts around 12,000 Syrian refugees, and over half of them are children. Save the Children is the only organization providing education services to 3-5 year old children.