School for Syrian refugees in Domiz camp (Iraq)

Since May 2013, 40 refugee students from Syria have been taking a parallel course in the school center created by Mission Enfance in the Domiz camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Zinar M., a Syrian teacher, also a refugee, runs the center. He gives us the first results.

Ecole du camp de Domiz

« Education in Syria was good. At the primary level, the school was compulsory for all and the family environment conducive to study and attendance.

However, at the outset of the war, children were missing classes for long periods of time, causing significant shortcomings in their pedagogical education. This was exacerbated when families left their homes and fled to neighboring countries such as Iraqi Kurdistan.

The difference between the Syrian and Kurdish educational models disrupts the Syrian refugees. They discover in Iraq, new subjects such as Law and Civic Education, the Arabic language and French. The Kurdish language, used in Syria, in oral form and seldomly writen, is written in Latin letters and not in Arabic as is customary in Iraqi Kurdistan. Hence the learning difficulties for refugee students.

Under the influx of refugees fleeing their country, Domiz’s camp soon became overcrowded. The school is affected by the mass arrival of new pupils and the organization of the educational program becomes chaotic: the number of pupils per class, the difficulty of respecting the level of each pupil, the great lack of specialized teachers.

Under such circumstances, a child may have a negative view of learning. It is impossible for them to express themselves and live their childhood, in an educational space so inadequate. School drop-out induces children who then start doing odd jobs and selling cigarettes, Korek cards and mineral water.

Living conditions in tents are hardly better than at school. The space is reduced to a single room where one sleeps, cooks, eats, receives from the visit, plays cards, smokes and sometimes studies …

The idea of ​​improving the conditions of teaching and learning for these children surviving in miserable situations was essential.

For example, the addition of a visitor center was discussed in order to reduce the number of students enrolled in the school and to fill the gaps in the school system to get them back on track.

Kurdish, Arabic, English and Plastic arts are subjects to be emphasized in order to overcome the difficulties encountered by most pupils. These subjects must be taught as they are in public schools as it would be difficult for students to change textbooks several times during the semester.

We must motivate the students by giving them a playful and enthusiastic teaching. For example, educational materials can be consolidated through the use of images, photographs, posters and audio recorders. With these tools, the teacher can set up an efficient and simple learning system in different workshops, in pairs or in groups. These activities may be oral or written.

Encouragement through compliments to students or accountability for certain tasks such as handing out booklets, clearing the blackboard, or appointing a « leader » of the task force, are motivating.

Maintaining a reasonable number of students per class is important so that they can all participate in group or individual classroom activities. Each student is unique and will have a different way of learning compared to his peers, using abilities and personal work strategies.

For children to come to the Educational Center in the afternoon, it is essential to encourage them not to hang out to sell items; This has a positive impact on the child and reduces the risk of child labor.

Unlike tents where it is impossible to study, children and their parents find that this Educational Center is an invaluable place to learn, have fun and make new friends … « 

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