Schooling Syrian Refugee children

English Class in Irdib

In three classrooms of a school in Irdib, the third largest city in Jordan just 20 miles from the Syrian border, is a bustling student community.   From the outside it looks like any other.   A basketball court to the side, an area for playing football at the back.   Nestled amongst houses and small businesses you might not think anything of this building.    But what goes on inside is remarkable.

It’s been referred to as the “double shift system”.

In Jordan children go to school from 8am to 2pm, typically.  So what happens in the afternoon?  Nothing.   The school lays empty.     The teachers are not working, the desks are not used, the basketball court lays silent.

So the  idea of a double shift system has been devised, here Jordanian children in the morning, Syrian children in the afternoon but also in place in Turkey and Lebanon.   A much cheaper option than building new schools, it costs around $10 to fund a school place for a week.

Without education, Syria’s children will be a lost generation

Gordon Brown said that in an article in the Guardian last week where he also talked about this double shift system

Education is what these children want.   What they need if they are ever going to have any hopes of wanting a job in the future.  Working in Jordan is not permitted (it takes jobs from Jordanians and the Syrian workers are cheaper too so there is a bigger picture to just saying “let them work”) but one day it might be and without an education the children will be lost.

During five years of civil war, the majority of Syria’s refugee children have been forced out of school, and the longer a child is out of school the more difficult it is to get them back in

Many of the Syrian children’s parents are not educated, some are illiterate but they want their children to receive an education.

Syrian Refugees education

It is currently the winter break here in Jordan so the schools are closed to “normal” classes but what we saw in action were mixed classes of Jordanian children who needed a bit of extra support with their learning, being taught alongside Syrian refugee children too.    To look at the classes you would have no idea if the boys were Syrian or Jordanian so this system not only makes use of classrooms but also integrates the refugee children into local society too.  Friendships built that break down the “them and us” feelings.

And as a direct result of Lebanon’s success, Turkey and Jordan are now ready to make double-shift schools the centrepiece of this year’s educational efforts for refugees. Working with Unicef, Turkey has set out its goals to double its school places for refugees to more than 450,000 this year. In Jordan, where just over 100,000 refugees are already in school, the aim is to double places.

In the English class led by Wael Shafnawi, 27 (I asked all the boys to write down their names and ages and when I handed my notebook to the teacher he also wrote down his name and age.  So sweet) the boys were learning everyday conversation.   When we entered they all stood up, and greeted us with “Good morning teacher”.


In the other rooms the lessons are Arabic and maths and all the boys range from 6 to 13.   Many don’t have breakfast before coming to school so as well as an education the boys also receive breakfast of pastries, and juice.

The classrooms are basic.  There were some posters on the wall the boys had drawn, there was a single white board and two dry markers and shelves with discarded worksheets.   That was it.   But these boys were being given an education thanks to support from WorldVision.

They are being given a future.


quotes taken from the Guardian article linked to above

We are here with WorldVisionUK as part of their #BarefootCoatless campaign.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • That is such a clever way to do it, I know my friends in London teaching classrooms full of different children, with very different needs, many of them refugees, are finding it tough. Double shifts make a lot of sense, especially where the numbers are vast – but lovely to see integration happening too.

  • What a fantastic way of integrating the kids and helping them get an education. They all look so happy to be in school and learning. It’s great that they are given breakfast there too.

  • So inspiring to see such practical ways being sued to solve problems coming from such an impractical situation x

  • What a great system. I have a cousin who is a teacher in London, who struggles to support some refugees learning alongside the British children. I like that during the holidays at least, they are integrated together as well. It really does make a lot of sense, they all get the relevant education and as you say, help to break down the divide.